The Democrats are considering carbon tariffs on imported goods

Robert P. Murphy’s linked to this post he wrote at the Institute for Energy Research. Murphy is concerned that Obama is going down the same path as that interventionist Herbert Hoover did. Hoover passed the Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act, which led the United States into the Great Depression. Murphy thinks that carbon tariffs could be on the way!

Here is an an excerpt from Murphy’s post:

…the Obama administration—under the guise of fighting climate change—is testing the waters with new restrictions on imports. Specifically, lawmakers on the House Energy and Commerce Committee are considering imposing “carbon tariffs” to prevent foreign nations from gaining a competitive advantage vis-à-vis U.S. producers who are burdened with a forthcoming cap-and-trade regime. The idea is that the U.S. government would slap a huge “compensatory” tax on imports that were produced in foreign nations that do not impose carbon legislation on their manufacturers.

Murphy explains why free trade increases the prosperity of all nations, by promoting efficient production:

Even without retaliation, a unilateral tariff increase makes Americans poorer. The gains to the workers in the “protected” domestic industry are more than offset by the loss to consumers who have to pay higher prices. A tariff is a tax on American consumers; the government says to its own citizens, “If you want to buy a product from a foreign producer, you have to make a side payment to the U.S. Treasury.” You don’t make a country richer by jacking up taxes on its own consumers.

International trade allows countries to specialize in their “comparative advantage,” or their areas of relative expertise. It would be catastrophic if everyone had to grow his own food, sew his own clothes, and drill his own cavities. We all benefit tremendously from the ability to specialize in occupations at which we are better than our peers, and then trade with each other.

The same principle applies to entire countries, which are simply aggregates of the individuals living in them. Because of differences in resource endowments, industrial infrastructure, weather, and the skills of the workforce, it is much more efficient for certain regions of the world to concentrate on a few key items and export them to other regions. When the government raises tax barriers, it interferes with this process and makes everyone poorer on average.

Not only do tariffs hurt consumers, but they also destroy businesses that export products. First, those businesses will have to pay more for raw materials. Second, the goods they export to other countries will face import tariffs. This will cost more American jobs than are “saved” by imposing tariffs. And the government gets the money from tariffs, not the productive private sector.

Murphy explains how global warming is really just a euphemism for economically-ignorant socialism:

Even if the threat from man-made climate change is as serious as some scientists claim, this fact would not overturn the centuries of work done by economic scientists. We know from both theory and history that raising trade barriers in the middle of a severe worldwide recession is a terrible policy. We also know from theory and history that government central planning does not work. When the technocrats reorder the economy, deciding which firms will survive and which prices are too high or too low, the results are disastrous. It doesn’t matter whether the justification is “fighting the Depression” (as in the 1930s) or “fighting climate change” (as in today’s discussions). Either way, central planning will wreck the economy, and it won’t even achieve its ostensible goals.

I recommend you go there and read the whole article. Think of the future of your children, and of your neighbor’s children.

Related story over at Stop the ACLU: “EPA may soon deem CO2 a threat to human health“. I blogged before about cap and trade, tax hikes on oil, the world’s anger at tariffs, and the myth of global warming.

Is there scientific evidence for an intelligent designer?

Dr. Walter L. Bradley
Dr. Walter L. Bradley

Dr. Walter L. Bradley (C.V. here) is the Distinguished Professor of Engineering at Baylor, and a great example of the integration of Christian faith and a stellar academic career. He is not a “secret-service” Christian. Rejecting the notion of safe, private Christianity, he instead projects his Christian faith outward, where his students and colleagues can be aware of his beliefs.

Below I analyze a lecture I chose from the hundreds of public lectures he has given all over the world on the integration of Christian faith with other public, testable areas of knowledge. In this lecture, entitled “Is There Scientific Evidence for an Intelligent Designer?“, Dr. Bradley explains how the progress of science has made the idea of a Creator and Designer of the universe more acceptable than ever before.

Evidence #1: The design of the universe

1. The correspondence of natural phenomena to mathematical law

  • All observations of physical phenomena in the universe, such as throwing a ball up in the air, are described by a few simple, elegant mathematical equations.

2. The fine-tuning of physical constants and rations between constants in order to provide a life-permitting universe

  • Life has certain minimal requirements; long-term stable source of energy, a large number of different chemical elements, an element that can serve as a hub for joining together other elements into compounds, etc.
  • In order to meet these minimal requirements, the physical constants, (such as the gravitational constant), and the ratios between physical constants, need to be withing a narrow range of values in order to support the minimal requirements for life of any kind.
  • Slight changes to any of the physical constants, or to the rations between the constants, will result in a universe inhospitable to life.
  • The range of possible ranges over 70 orders of magnitude.
  • Although each individual selection of constants and ratios is as unlikely as any other selection, the vast majority of these possibilities do not support the minimal requirements of life of any kind. (In the same way as any hand of 5 cards that is dealt is as likely as any other, but you are overwhelmingly likely NOT to get a royal flush. In our case, a royal flush is a life-permitting universe).

Examples of finely-tuned constants and ratios: (there are more examples in the lecture)

a) The strong force: (the force that binds nucleons (= protons and neutrons) together in nucleus, by means of meson exchange)

  • if the strong force constant were 2% stronger, there would be no stable hydrogen, no long-lived stars, no hydrogen containing compounds. This is because the single proton in hydrogen would want to stick to something else so badly that there would be no hydrogen left!
  • if the strong force constant were 5% weaker, there would be no stable stars, few (if any) elements besides hydrogen. This is because you would be able to build up the nuclei of the heavier elements, which contain more than 1 proton.
  • So, whether you adjust the strong force up or down, you lose stars than can serve as long-term sources of stable energy, or you lose chemical diversity, which is necessary to make beings that can perform the minimal requirements of living beings. (see below)

b) The conversion of beryllium to carbon, and carbon to oxygen

  • Life requires carbon in order to serve as the hub for complex molecules, but it also requires oxygen in order to create water.
  • Carbon is like the hub wheel in a tinker toy set: you can bind other elements together to more complicated molecules (e.g. – “carbon-based life), but the bonds are not so tight that they can’t be broken down again later to make something else.
  • The carbon resonance level is determined by two constants: the strong force and electromagnetic force.
  • If you mess with these forces even slightly, you either lose the carbon or the oxygen.

3. Fine-tuning to allow a habitable planet

  • A number of factors must be fine-tuned in order to have a planet that supports life
  • Initial estimates predicted abundant life in the universe, but revised estimates now predict that life is almost certainly unique in the galaxy, and probably unique in the universe.
  • Even though there are lots of stars in the universe, the odds are against any of them supporting complex life.
  • Here are just a few of the minimal requirements for habitability: must be a single star solar system, in order to support stable planetary orbits, the planet must be the right distance from the sun in order to have liquid water at the surface, the planet must sufficient mass in order to retain an atmosphere, etc.

The best current atheist response to this is to speculate that there may be an infinite number of unobservable and untestable universes. (I.e. – the Flying Spaghetti Monster did it)

Evidence #2: The origin of the universe

1. The progress of science has shown that the entire physical universe came into being out of nothing (= “the big bang”). It also shows that the cause of this creation event is non-physical and non-temporal. The cause is supernatural.

  • Atheism prefers an eternal universe, to get around the problem of a Creator having to create the universe.
  • Discovery #1: Observations of galaxies moving away from one another confirms that the universe expanded from a single point.
  • Discovery #2: Measurements of the cosmic background radiation confirms that the universe exploding into being.
  • Discovery #3: Predictions of elemental abundances prove that the universe is not eternal.
  • Discovery #4:The atheism-friendly steady-state model and oscillating model were both falsified by the evidence.
  • And there were other discoveries as well, mentioned in the lecture.

The best atheistic response to this is to speculate that there is an unobservable and untestable hyper-universe outside our own. (I.e. – the Flying Spaghetti Monster did it)

Evidence #3: The origin of life

1. The progress of science has shown that the simplest living organism contains huge amounts of biological information, similar to the Java code I write all day at work. This is a problem for atheists, because the sequence of instructions in a living system has to come together all at once, it cannot have evolved by mutation and selection – because there was no replication in place prior to the formation of that first living system!

  • Living systems must support certain minimum life functions: processing energy, storing information, and replicating.
  • There needs to be a certain amount of complexity in the living system that can perform these minimum functions.
  • But on atheism, the living system needs to be simple enough to form by accident in a pre-biotic soup, and in a reasonable amount of time.
  • The minimal functionality in a living system is a achieved by DNA, RNA and enzymes. DNA and RNA are composed of sequences of proteins, which are in turn composed of sequences of amino acids.

Consider the problems of building a chain of 100 amino acids

  • The amino acids must be left-handed only, but left and right kinds are equally abundant in nature. How do you sort out the right-handed ones?
  • The amino acids must be bound together using peptide bonds. How do you prevent other types of bonds?
  • Each link of the amino acid chain needs to be carefully chosen such that the completed chain with fold up into a protein. How do you choose the correct amino acid for each link from the pool of 20 different kinds found in living systems?
  • In every case, a human or other intelligence could solve these problems by doing what intelligent agents do best: making choices.
  • But who is there to make the choices on atheism?

The best current atheistic response to this is to speculate that unobservable and untestable aliens seeded the earth with life. (I.e. – the Flying Spaghetti Monster did it)

The problem of the origin of life is not a problem of chemistry, it is a problem of engineering. Every part of car functionality can be understood and described using the laws of physics and chemistry. But an intelligence is still needed in order to assemble the components into a system that has the minimal requirements for a functioning vehicle.

Conclusion

In all three areas, scientists expected that the data would be consistent with atheism. First, scientists expected that life could exist even if the physical constants and ratios were altered. The progress of science said NO. Second, scientists expected that the universe would be eternal. The progress of science said NO. Third, scientists expected that the origin of life would be simple. The progress of science said NO.

Republicans call for Obama to fire tax-cheat Geithner

I found these stories on the blogs of conservative Republicans. They are not going to let Obama weasel out of the consequences of his incompetent Cabinet picks.

Representative Marsha Blackburn
Representative Marsha Blackburn

Marsha Blackburn

Representative Marsha Blackburn posted about Geithner on her blog.

Excerpt:

Yesterday Congressman Marsha Blackburn (TN-7) appeared on The Fred Thompson Show and called on Secretary of the Treasury Tim Geithner to resign.

“I think that he has caused more problems than he has solved,”
Blackburn said on the nationally syndicated radio show.  “I think he needs to go and it doesn’t matter if the President wants to remove him or he wants to submit his resignation but Secretary Geithner needs to go.”

Audio of Blackburn on the Fred Thompson radio show is here: short clip, long clip).

Senator Jim Demint
Senator Jim Demint

Jim Demint

Jim Demint calls for the firing of Geithner in this post on his blog:

Excerpt:

During an interview with FOX Business, Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) discusses Americans’ outrage with AIG bonuses and government bailouts. DeMint calls upon President Obama to fire Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, saying that Americans have lost confidence in him because he clearly “has lost his ability to operate” and deal with America’s current economic crisis.

Video:

John Shadegg

In addition, Representative John Shadegg had a post on his blog.

Excerpt:

“How could Geithner have been so intimately involved in the AIG bailout, head of the New York Federal Reserve when the Reserve was informed of the bonuses, head of the Treasury when the department asked for the provision that helped secure these bonuses, and supposedly one of the greatest experts on Wall Street today – and not have known about them?

“Sadly, it appears that Secretary Geithner is either dishonest or incompetent.

“Perhaps the Senate should have paid more attention to Geithner’s tax errors after all.”

We need to embarass Obama for nominating this incompetent tax cheat.

Massachusetts state-run health care costs hit 820 million

Spotted this article in the leftist New York Times, (H/T Independent Women’s Forum). Looks like the communists in MA are finding out too late that there is a problem with having the state make health insurance compulsory and having prescription drugs and mental health coverage included for every policy holder, regardless of risk.

The article states:

Alan Sager, a professor of health policy at Boston University, has calculated that health spending per person in Massachusetts increased faster than the national average in seven of the last eight years. Furthermore, he said, the gap has grown exponentially, with Massachusetts now spending about a third more per person, up from 23 percent in 1980.

John R. Graham of the State Policy Network, (H/T Pacific Research Institute) explains how they got into this mess:

Surely, even the New York Times can figure out that spending $820 million on the Bay State’s Commonwealth Care “universal” health-care plan, in order to save $250 million in uncompensated hospital care, is not a good trade-off.

Not according to today’s article on the latest state to compel its residents to buy health insurance, which reports those savings as the only positive outcome of this out-of-control program.  Three years ago, Gov. Romney collaborated with the Democratic-majority legislature to achieve “universal” health care by government diktat: squeezing every resident into either compulsory private health insurance or expanded government programs, using both tax-hikes and subsidies.

Today, we learn that, alongside the absurd cost/benefit ratio, the state can no longer bear the costs, which are spiralling out of control faster than other states’ costs are.  This reminds us of a fundamental lesson of government power: When the government orders you to buy something, the government will have to step in to decide what that something looks like.

It’s the same old story of how fixing the price of a product or service below market value results in increased demand and decreased supply. And we all know what happens when the costs of government-run health care escalates – increased government control of the lives of patients and decreased quality of health care service.

For the life of me, I don’t know why anyone voted for that RINO Mitt Romney in the primaries. In my opinion, he was terrible on social issues across the board, and this RomneyCare mess doesn’t exactly inspire confidence on fiscal policy, either.

Quick overview of N.T. Wright’s case for the resurrection

UPDATE: Welcome visitors from Free Canuckistan! Thanks for the linky, Binky!

I thought I would just go over a paper from N.T. Wright, whose multi-volume case for the historicity of the bodily resurrection of Jesus seems to be getting a lot of respect from the other side, (although I strongly disagree with his economic and political views, which are naive at best).Wright has taught at Cambridge, Oxford, Duke, McGill, etc.. He’s published 40 books.

CV excerpt, all degrees are from Oxford University:

  • 2000 D.D.
  • 1981 D.Phil.
  • 1975 M.A.
  • 1973 B.A.(1st class Honours), Theology; Denyer and Johnson Prize (shared) for top first class of year; College Prize
  • 1971 B.A.(1st class Honours), Literae Humaniores; College Prize

Wright seems to get a lot of respect from skeptics like John Dominic Crossan (their debate is here: book, audio – note: buy the audio, don’t buy the book). I have never heard Crossan concede the empty tomb and the appearances before, but he did against Wright. In his debate (audio, book) against William Lane Craig, he denied all 4 of Craig’s minimal facts.

We have seen elsewhere how to argue for the resurrection using the minimal facts approach. The minimal facts are the handful of facts about Jesus that survive the standard historical criteria used in the evaluation of historical biographies. But Wright has a different approach.

Let’s take a look at a lecture (that link has PDF transcript, audio and movies) that Wright gave on the resurrection.

N.T. Wright’s historical case for the bodily resurrection of Jesus

Wright basically argues that the resurrection cannot have been a myth invented by the early Christian community, because the idea of the Messiah dying and being bodily resurrected to eternal life was completely unexpected in Jewish theology, and therefore would not have been fabricated.

In Judaism, when people die, they stay dead. At the most, they might re-appear as apparitions, or be resuscitated to life for a while, but then die again later. There was no concept of the bodily resurrection to eternal life of a single person, especially of the Messiah, prior to the general resurrection of all the righteous dead on judgment day.

Wright’s case for the resurrection has 3 parts:

  • The Jewish theological beliefs of the early Christian community underwent 7 mutations that are inexplicable apart from the bodily resurrection of Jesus
  • The empty tomb
  • The post-mortem appearances of Jesus to individuals and groups, friends and foes

Here’s the outline of Wright’s case:

…the foundation of my argument for what happened at Easter is the reflection that this Jewish hope has undergone remarkable modifications or mutations within early Christianity, which can be plotted consistently right across the first two centuries. And these mutations are so striking, in an area of human experience where societies tend to be very conservative, that they force the historian… to ask, Why did they occur?

The mutations occur within a strictly Jewish context. The early Christians held firmly, like most of their Jewish contemporaries, to a two-step belief about the future: first, death and whatever lies immediately beyond; second, a new bodily existence in a newly remade world. ‘Resurrection’ is not a fancy word for ‘life after death’; it denotes life after ‘life after death’.

And here are the 7 mutations:

  1. Christian theology of the afterlife mutates from multiples views (Judaism) to a single view: resurrection (Christianity). When you die, your soul goes off to wait in Sheol. On judgment day, the righteous dead get new resurrection bodies, identical to Jesus’ resurrection body.
  2. The relative importance of the doctrine of resurrection changes from being peripheral (Judaism) to central (Christianity).
  3. The idea of what the resurrection would be like goes from multiple views (Judaism) to a single view: an incorruptible, spiritually-oriented body composed of the material of the previous corruptible body (Christianity).
  4. The timing of the resurrection changes from judgment day (Judaism) to a split between the resurrection of the Messiah right now and the resurrection of the rest of the righteous on judgment day (Christianity).
  5. There is a new view of eschatology as collaboration with God to transform the world.
  6. There is a new metaphorical concept of resurrection, referred to as being “born-again”.
  7. There is a new association of the concept of resurrection to the Messiah. (The Messiah was not even supposed to die, and he certainly wasn’t supposed to rise again from the dead in a resurrected body!)

There are also other historical puzzles that are solved by postulating a bodily resurrection of Jesus.

  1. Jewish people thought that the Messiah was not supposed to die. Although there were lots of (warrior) Messiahs running around at the time, whenever they got killed, their followers would abandon them. Why didn’t Jesus’ followers abandon him when he died?
  2. If the early Christian church wanted to communicate that Jesus was special, despite his shameful death on the cross, they would have made up a story using the existing Jewish concept of exaltation. Applying the concept of bodily resurrection to a dead Messiah would be a radical departure from Jewish theology, when an invented exaltation was already available to do the job.
  3. The early church became extremely reckless about sickness and death, taking care of people with communicable diseases and testifying about their faith in the face of torture and execution. Why did they scorn sickness and death?
  4. The gospels, especially Mark, do not contain any embellishments and “theology historicized”. If they were made-up, there would have been events that had some connection to theological concepts. But the narratives are instead bare-bones: “Guy dies public death. People encounter same guy alive later.” Plain vanilla narrative.
  5. The story of the women who were the first witnesses to the empty tomb cannot have been invented, because the testimony of women was inadmissable under almost all circumstances at that time. If the story were invented, they would have invented male discoverers of the tomb. Female discovers would have hampered conversion efforts.
  6. There are almost no legendary embellishments in the gospels, while there are plenty in the later gnostic forgeries. No crowds of singing angels, no talking crosses, and no booming voices from the clouds.
  7. There is no mention of the future hope of the general resurrection, which I guess they thought was imminent anyway.

To conclude, Wright makes the argument that the best explanation of all of these changes in theology and practice is that God raised Jesus (bodily) from the dead. There is simply no way that this community would have made up the single resurrection of the Messiah – who wasn’t even supposed to die – and then put themselves on the line for that belief.

And remember, the belief in a resurrected Jesus was not a belief in a flying spaceship that was going to come and pick them up if they drank the kool-aid. This was a belief they held based on personal experiences. They were able to confirm or deny their belief in the resurrection of Jesus based on their own personal experiences with the object of those beliefs.

Additional resources

For more debates on the resurrection, see here for William Lane Craig, here for Mike Licona, and here for Gary Habermas. I am a big fan of all these guys, but Craig hasn’t lost any resurrection debates, while Licona tied against Richard Carrier and Habermas lost against Arif Ahmed. In particular, I recommend these 3 debates:

UPDATE: Also, I have a more recent post on the earliest source of historical facts about the resurrection.

…integrating Christian faith and knowledge in the public square

%d bloggers like this: