Saturday, June 30, 2007

Our Man Rudy Speaks for Himself

That paragon of journalistic excellence, the Wall Street Journal's opinion page, offers the SWNIDishly esteemed Rudy Giuliani as the object of its weekend edition interview today.

For those plebians who don't find the Journal on their driveway six mornings a week, the good news is that the interview is on the free side of the WSJ web site.

We find this one of the best Rudy pieces we've read so far. We pray that gentle readers aren't so sated with our own all-Rudy-all-the-time editorial policy that they can share some of our enthusiasm after reading it.

Cincinnati Census Figures Now Measure Political Influence

So in the Census Bureau's annual conjecture, Cincinnati is gaining about three residents per day.

SWNID offers a half-sincere cheer for this development. Here's why.

These figures are thoughtful, careful, but untested. Our understanding is that the bureau starts with the estimates of state population, breaks that out as counties, and then breaks out the municipalities from the counties.

In this formulation, Ohio's Hamilton County was deemed to be losing residents. On the next level, Cincinnati was deemed to be adding residents. Because Cincinnati's addition is in the context of Hamilton County's subtraction, that means that Hamilton County's suburbs must be deemed to be losing population at a disturbing pace.

We're sure that's true for some places like Lockland, Lincoln Park and Elmwood Place. But those bottoming-out inner-ring suburbs aren't sufficient to balance the whole.

We therefore hypothesize that the Census Bureau gave Cincinnati a plus not just because trendy downtown apartments and East End condos are bringing young singles and empty nesters to the urban core. We believe that they didn't like getting whacked by Mark Mallory's protest of last year's figures showing a loss, which they subsequently revised to a small gain.

Too bad for them. Mallory is still protesting these figures.

So too are the Hamilton County Commissioners.

So now the Census Bureau has two political headaches. They can't win.

We pose this question as our conclusion: if overpopulation is the problem, why are people so anxious to have more neighbors?

Williams Delivers Epic Eulogy for Brown v. Board

Yesterday's Gray Lady wasn't so gray. In it Juan Williams, whose credibility on the issue flows from decades of close coverage of the historic leaders of the civil rights movement, delivers a breathtakingly incisive analysis of why it's past time to move beyond the Brown decision to advance effective public education for minorities.

This one should go in the time capsule.

Friday, June 29, 2007

On Immigration: Senate Votes for Javert over Valjean

With yesterday's demise of the bipartisan immigration reform bill, many who call themselves conservatives are rejoicing in what they see as a victory. SWNID does not.

SWNID's conservatism is of the kind that thinks it's pretty cool when people want to work hard at something useful so that they can provide for themselves and their families. We believe that America's immigration "crisis" has stemmed from a long-term inability to face up to the economic reality that this country has work to do and there are people in other countries who desperately want to do it. Sympathetic to those who believe they have been displaced in employment by immigrants, we believe that the general direction of the economy over the last two decades, trending toward low unemployment and rising standards of living, supports the belief that immigration is as good for this country as it ever has been.

Beyond the present laws governing immigration, which have been ignored to the benefit of nearly all parties so far, lies the economic law that where a demand exists and a supply exists, people will find a way to bring them together. Of course, government has a moral responsibility to regulate such transactions when they are harmful to the public or individual good, as in, say, narcotics transactions. But to oversimplify, SWNID doesn't think that a man leaving his home for months at a time to hang drywall north of the border is doing the same thing morally as a drug dealer. An orderly process for managing the flow of workers from abroad that reckons with this reality is all we seek.

For all those who insist that the rule of law, whatever it is, demands that no one who has ever entered the country illegally be granted legal residence, we ask whether they want similar enforcement of the speed limits or whether they would say the same for the Fugitive Slave Act prior to 1863.

Jean Valjean stole a loaf of bread to feed his family. His life was never the same thereafter. Javert spent his life trying to bring ostensible justice to the man who had sought redemption from the past by giving his life in service for others. In the immigration question, which is no fiction, we side with the Valjeans over the Javerts.

Supremes: Stop in the Name of Politics, Principle, Practicality and People

As gentle readers no doubt know, the Roberts Supreme Court has delivered a raft of 5-4 decisions on controversial topics. We make two broad observations about them.

First, if anyone doubted that the Supreme Court is a genuinely political entity, no less than Congress or the Presidency, these decisions and the reaction to them will illustrate otherwise. No one can doubt that every justice calculates the political impact of every opinion that comes from the bench, no matter how carefully those opinions are couched in the jargon of judicial objectivity. The rhetoric in the delivery of decisions, concurrences and dissents shows nothing short of conscious alignment with the polarized climate of the present body politic.

However, there's no way that the Roberts decision came down as a means of promoting Republican electoral prospects in the next election. We think that this decision pretty much assures that 90% of African-American voters will continue to vote against the Republican party, this despite the fact that many in that majority legitimately feel underserved by the very public schools whose status quo the decision challenges and for which the pursuit of integration by racial formulae has been a fig leaf to cover the continuing inability to address the real needs of at-risk students.

Note well that at last night's Democratic Candidate Forum at Howard University (and a more poignant place for a Democrat campaign event after the school integration decision could not be imagined), candidates took turns denouncing the decision. We give Bill Richardson an F for his shameless dragging out of his Latino background as his bona fide on this discussion, reminding him that he is also the son of a privileged WASPish father and that second-generation Latinos have had significantly less trouble integrating into the mainstream culture in this country than have African-Americans.* We give Hillary a D for her tired, shrill cadences of declamation that remind us yet again of being beaten with a wire clothes hanger by Joan Crawford. We give Barak Obama an A for bringing together in a single statement the necessity of ongoing public action to address the legacy of racism and redoubled internal efforts within minority communities to do the same. But Rs can expect to be hammered on this issue for at least another decade.

Second, the Roberts majority of five has been careful nevertheless to ground their most important rulings in large constitutional and legal principles that are hard to argue with. The ruling on political ads effectively negates the McCain-Feingold bill's restrictions on the real issue of free speech, namely the freedom to engage in political speech without restriction. The "Bong Hits for Jesus" ruling doesn't negate that upholding of principle. Rather, it simply recognizes that children don't have the same rights as adults. This "turns back the clock" on recent application of free speech doctrine to silliness and restores the sanctity of political dialogue, especially where elections are concerned. The ruling on using race in school assignments upholds the notion that race should play no role in the decisions of government entities, the ideal set aside in certain earlier decisions to allow remedial action to redress the injustice of racism's legacy.

On this difficult point, we assert that it will never be possible to pronounce when it is no longer "necessary" to address racism's legacy with remedial public policies. Some blend of remediation and color-blind idealism will probably continue for generations. We expect our grandchildren to continue to be frustrated by this dilemma.

Third, these decisions probably don't ignore the practicalities of the issues to the degree that their opponents allege. It's delusional, for example, to think that McCain-Feingold in any way improved the level of political discourse during the last election cycle, or that it lessened the influence of money. It's delusional to think that public schools are worse off because they aren't open forums for disruptive and sophomoric speech acts, that Johnny can't read because of the stifling of free expression in his fascist school.

Perhaps most controversially, we'll say that coercive measures to promote integration in schools are probably counterproductive to the larger objectives of such integration. As the experience in Cincinnati Public Schools over the last decades would illustrate, in our Seldom Wrong opinion, public school districts with significant populations of minority students, especially poor minority students, have an interest in retaining as residents in their districts and participants in their schools those families who have the economic power to exercise choice over where their children will attend. Denying such families a reasonable choice of public school options simply sends them to the private sector or out of the district altogether. CPS has shown that it can achieve a measured degree of racial and economic integration by allowing school choice and not overtly restricting students from such choices because of racial formulas. Few things alienated families more than being told that they couldn't enroll in this or that school because of the social construct of race. That's why districts seeking integration have largely abandoned specific racial formulae.

Fourth, we think that the Roberts court's decisions restore the notion that adults are adults, and not in the sense asserted when free-speech doctrine is applied to lap dancing and child pornography. To wit: adult voters should be able to decide whether to listen to a campaign advertisement, adult educators should be able to decide what goes on in their schools, and adult parents should be able to decide where their children attend school, especially if they don't like what the adult educators are doing at their current schools. These adults won't always make the right decisions, but they won't do any worse than the adult who works for the government because he got a master's degree in public administration because his LSATs were too low for law school.

*We hereby recant our tepid endorsement of Richardson as a D we could live with. His campaign, since becoming official, as been the most blatant example of unprincipled pandering to the party base that we can recall. Besides playing on his ethnicity without dignity, Richardson has promised an instantaneous 100% withdrawal from Iraq and a menu of big spending programs with more items than the menu at Price Hill Chili.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

A Republican Abandonment of Iraq?

The big news on Iraq over the last two days hasn't been about progress on the offensive underway in Baqouba. The fact that things are going well there has, of course, been overshadowed in the media by remarks by American generals, no doubt designed to be heard by Iraqis for purposes of provoking their resolve and by Americans for purposes of blaming someone other than the American generals if things go sour later, that they feared Iraqi forces would be unable to hold the gains made by the Americans and Iraqis.

But the bigger shadow was cast by Republican Senior Statesman Richard Lugar, who Monday voiced publicly what he says he's been telling the Bush administration privately for months: that things aren't working and it's time to organize an orderly draw-down of troops. Lugar was joined later by George Voinovich, whose miserably inconsistent career as a senator compares so unfavorably with the sagely Lugar as to count for nothing in the ongoing debate.

Lugar's opinion is being given much weight in the media. This is to be expected. The media presents stories. Stories require conflict. This looks like conflict.

But let's be clear about the nature of the conflict, including the nature of the person who prompts it. Richard Lugar is the closest thing to a State Department official in the Senate. His bland demeanor and measured pace of speech that appear dull to ordinary mortals mark him as the kind of person born to inhabit Foggy Bottom, where endless negotiation is always preferred over decisive action. Philosophically, he belongs to the camp of Brent Scowcroft and other Republicans who eschew foreign entanglements as long as problems abroad don't become ridiculously close to home.

But noting all that, we think that Lugar revealed his real perspective in his interview on Morning Edition today. To wit: he believes that political pressure for withdrawal from Iraq is irresistible. More particularly, he thinks that Rs will cave as the election approaches. Hence, he advocates an organized, measured withdrawal now as opposed to a disorganized, precipitous withdrawal later. This is not exactly the same as spending the weekend in San Francisco with Nancy Pelosi.

In sum, Lugar is convinced that Americans lack the patience to sustain the fight, so he wants to retreat in orderly fashion.

We believe that among Dick Lugar's many outstanding qualities, a strong political sense is not to be found. It's been over 30 years since Lugar ran in a genuinely competitive election, except when he briefly ran for President in 1996, a race that he abandoned early, and with some delightfully self-depreciating humor, after managing to get no contributions and no showing in the polls. Further, he's never been the kind of Senator who would stand before the public, articulate a position and a cause with vigor, and urge people to get behind that cause. He is a negotiator, a crafter of legislative and diplomatic compromise, but not a leader in the classic sense. (N.B. that this is what Senators become, and that's why so few of them become President. Sorry John, Hillary, Barak and John!)

Folks with memories of about 20 years will recall the so-called "Powell Doctrine," as articulated by General Colin Powell. In sum, Powell advocated that American military force be used only in situations where the goals were clearly attainable and a means of withdrawing afterward was essentially assured. One should realize, however, that this military doctrine was grounded in a pessimistic assessment of America's political situation. To wit: Powell was convinced that Americans wouldn't stand for anything short of a quick victory and an immediate withdrawal. Lugar is a Powellist: he thinks that American character is fixed in its fecklessness.

We remain convinced that Bush's muscular Wilsonianism has not finished playing its hand in Iraq. Militarily, there remains much to suggest that patience and persistence, with continual adaptation of tactics to the evolving situation, will bring continued progress toward goals that will be of long-term benefit to Iraqis, Arabs and Kurds in general, and the rest of humanity, including even the United States. We are no military historian, but we believe that there is much to be said for the success rate of nations with overwhelming military power who manage to stay on the field longer than their opponents.

Sadly, however, the media persists in its usual templates: (a) Americans are killed; (b) Iraqis are killed; (c) generals voice concerns; (d) politicians oppose the President; (e) Republicans risk election losses.

So what this situation calls for is exactly what Lugar has never been equipped to deliver and has abandoned in his pessimistic political assessment: an articulation of the reasons why prevailing in Iraq is so important, a frank assessment of the price to be paid to prevail (still a price far, far lower in lives and treasure than this nation has paid in most wars, Senator Voinovich), and a summoning of Americans to live out the ideals of liberty that define our national identity and experience.

When Worlds Collide: Giuliani Speaks at Robertson's College

We knew that Our Man Rudy was brave when he led NYC through 9/11. But he was never more brave than yesterday, when he spoke on the campus of Regent University, where Pat Robertson, World's Most Embarrassing Christian, is chancellor.

WaPo's summary of the speech is here. Rudy managed to do 30 minutes , take questions, and never mention abortion.

We'd say more abut the speech, but you've read it all here before. Our Man says he's The Man because the defining issue of our day is the war on Islamic terrorism. So say we too.

Survival of the Fittest: Which Creationist Group Will Prevail?

Comments clearly indicate that gentle readers want more on creationist controversy, not dead classical musicians. So we give you what you want.

We follow up our scintillating debate on young versus old earth by noting the news that Ken Ham and Answers in Genesis are the object of a lawsuit from the organization of which Ham and his group were once a part. In sum, the other organization, still based in Ham's native Australia, accuses Ham and company of failing to fulfill an agreement about subscriptions and so essentially destroying the Australian group's ability to generate revenue from its publications.

Follow the (not missing) link and try to untangle the saga of this controversy's evolution.

Editorial comment: In this world, anyone can be sued. But given the general contentiousness of AIG, we aren't surprised that they were deemed worthy of this form of suffering, especially at the hands of another creationist group. This didn't happen by chance.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

For Everyone Who (a) Loves Mel Brooks; (b) Hates Rogers and Hammerstein; (c) Has Had a Kid in a Junior High Musical

That is, for everyone roughly congruent with SWNID, there's a wry piece on National Review Online by Jennifer Graham on the experience of seeing her middle-school children cast as a nun and a Nazi in The Sound of Music.

Keep reading at least until you get to the description of the edgy practical joke that her husband once played on a restaurant host.

Developments in Iraq Call for Persistence in Body Politic

Dour assessments notwithstanding, there's enough good stuff in the "surge" to justify continued military efforts in Iraq.

First, we note that the American offensive against insurgents holed up north of Baghdad is showing early signs of success, thanks to tactical adjustments from earlier engagements. Yes, we know we had Al Qaida bottled up and Osama got away, so we'll wait for the dust to settle before drawing conclusions. In the best case, this isn't going to lead to a formal surrender aboard an American aircraft carrier. But we like it when we hear that lots of bad guys are all in one place that is now encircled by good guys with things that go boom.

Second, we are pleased to know that in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iraq, the folks who used to support the bad guys are turning against them and fighting with the good guys. This is classic counterinsurgency.

Ralph Peters at the NY Post is lauding and contextualizing such developments. His column deserves a good read. What he demands, as the title of our post suggests, is that we all settle down and wait. This thing is too big and important to give up, and it should be expected to take awhile.

We'd also recommend a reading, for a different reason, of Democrat Carl Levin's appropriation of Abraham Lincoln's stance on the Mexican-American War. Levin dons the Lincoln stovepipe hat by claiming the the young Congressman from Illinois did what he is doing by objecting to the war but voting to fund the troops. Well enough, Senator. But we think the better analogy is Lincoln's dogged determination to finish what became a hugely unpopular and terribly brutal war (only the former point is the relevant comparison to Iraq, by the way) because of his conviction that to do so was important for the long-term survival of democratic ideals. In any case, Levin's I-always-knew-it-was-bad rhetoric on the Iraq War is starting to sound a little out of date. But if he keeps the funds flowing, Petraeus and company may get enough time to show how wrong he was.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Our Reminiscence of Mstislav Rostropovich

We belatedly offer here our memory of late cellist, conductor, anti-Soviet dissident and Citizen of the World Mstislav Rostropovich, who passed away in April.

Rostropovich was, of course, one of the protean figures of the arts in the 20th century. He was a prodigious talent, with Pablo Casals one of the figures who defined his instrument in his generation, but also a conductor of unique passion, charisma and artistry. No one was ever bored at a concert or recital by Rostropovich.

Rostropovich embodied the experience of the troubled Russian people. A student of the great Russian musicians of the 20th century, Prokofiev and Shostakovitch, he was at all times thoroughly Russian in his musicianship. At the same time, like any great artist he broke through the boundaries of the provincial. He was not just Russian; he was eminently, earnestly and universally human.

In high school, SWNID was crazy for classical music. For several years, we took advantage of the appealingly cheap student tickets to subscription concerts of the Indianapolis Symphony, from the age of fifteen attending nearly all such concerts by ourselves to savor the wondrous sounds of that mid-major orchestra playing the great art music of the European tradition.

One year in that period, the ISO announced a special concert in addition to its subscription series. Rostropovich was recently exiled from his native Russia, where like other public figures he had estranged himself from the Soviet Communists by using his fame to denounce the regime's abuses of human rights. And so the ISO had contracted with him to conduct a special concert, for one night only.

We don't remember the date, and we barely remember the program. Two pieces by Tchaikovsky were programmed, one a relatively obscure tone poem and the other one of the lesser-performed symphonies--we don't remember whether it was the first or the third. Clowes Hall, Butler University's superb facility where the ISO performed in those days, was packed.

Rostropovich transformed the evening by his tremendous talent, but more by his dedication to the music. The ISO was a good orchestra with many outstanding players, but certainly in the second tier of the country's full-time symphonies. These pieces were fine pieces, but hardly the masterpieces that anchor the typical orchestral program. But Rostropovich extracted from the players and the scores something extraordinary. The music was by turns luminous, warm, agitated, mournful, and hopeful. The players found in the relatively unfamiliar passages the soul of the Russian spirit, embedded by the great Russian composer and extracted by the conductor connected to the composer through just a couple of musical generations.

What we in the audience heard confirmed what we dared not believe: that even in the darkness of the Soviet repression of millions of people, the human spirit could find a voice.

In those days, we didn't think that the Communist bloc could ever be opened. It was a given that the planet was divided into the Capitalist and Communist spheres, each held in check by the specter of mutually assured thermonuclear destruction. The best one could hope was that the Commies didn't take more countries and that a few lucky dissidents like Rostropovich could get a bittersweet reprieve as they defected or were exiled.

But the music that night said something different. It said that within the heart of the human being--the creature whom Christians regard as endued with God's image--there remains a capacity to rise above the most terrible of circumstances--circumstances created, ironically enough, by other bearers of the divine image.

The audience applauded longer and louder than we had heard before or have heard since. We applauded not just the music but the indomitable spirit of the man who had led it and the nation of people whom he represented--very different from the regime that he had fled. Rostropovich returned to the stage about a dozen times, each time insisting that the orchestra rise to receive the ovation, and the orchestra refusing until Rostropovich began physically to lift players from their seats (nearly breaking the principal violist's instrument as Rostropovich grabbed for him first).

Yes, we applauded the greatest evening of music most of us had ever heard. But more than that, we applauded the soul of Rostropovich, the real masterpiece on display that evening.

Without knowing it, we were applauding the One who made the very Russian, very human soul of Rostropovich.

Friend of SWNID Named Hospital Fundraising Director

We offer SWNIDish congratulations to CCU alumnus and trustee Dan Garrett on being named to lead the Henry Medical Center Foundation in suburban Atlanta. We are confident that he will flourish in this impressive and significant position.

We wish Dan well, not least in his efforts to save for confidential conversational circles what will doubtless be his maniacally subversive humorous observations about the rarefied world of hospital philanthropy.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Nothing Changes: Why We Still Like Rudy

Two timely articles reinforce the SWNIDish position on the 2008 presidential election. For those with short memories, that position is that Rudy Giuliani is the man for whom to vote and Hillary Clinton is the woman against whom to vote.

Why we support Rudy is well documented yet again in an article in the Hartford Courant: Rudy has demonstrated the aggressive leadership necessary to sustain the war against Islamofascism. Other issues are secondary to this one: if the terrorists bomb the Supreme Court, it won't matter how the justices rule on Roe v. Wade.

What the rest of America thinks of Hillary is well documented in a second article from the LA Times (here linked to a syndicated appearance in the NY Sun): despite the significant lead in polls of the generic "Democratic Presidential Candidate" over the generic "Republican Presidential Candidate," Hillary loses in head-to-head matchups. The significant points here are (a) America is rightly alarmed about a Hillary presidency; (b) nevertheless, she is the likely nominee and will bring lots of money and political expertise (others', not necessarily her own) to the general election); (c) she can therefore plausibly be projected as the likely next POTUS; (d) those alarmed by this prospect will want the strongest opponent to Hillary as the Republican nominee; (e) while McCain and Romney edge Hillary in recent polls, Rudy clobbers her; (f) Rudy also puts the electoral votes of New York in play, and if he takes NY, he effectively denies the Democrats any plausible means of attaining an electoral college majority.

In sum, a vote for anyone other than Rudy comes dangerously close to a vote for Hillary. The mind spins at the prospect.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

SWNID No Synchophant: Where We Split with Heroes

Lest gentle readers think that we think as think those whose thinking we think is right thinking, we offer the following to think about.

Awhile back, the Telegraph asked several British notables to assess the legacy of Tony Blair. One such was Bishop N. T. Wright, the living Neutestamentler whom SWNID judges most protean and admirable. Wright confessed to high hopes at the beginning of Blair's tenure as British PM, which hopes were dashed because of the Iraq War.

In this assessment, we sense what we ourselves have assessed about Wright in the past, namely, that what he recommends in his more homiletical works as the present ethical implication of his exegesis tends toward socialist and pacifist programs that embody the sentiment but offer nothing by way of results. Wright insists on a reversed notion of power because of the gospel. Indeed, he articulates such with acuity as has no other of our time. However, to say that such a reversal means that government must be involved in programs of redistribution negates the possibility that things like the development of markets and enterprise might serve the poor better.

Similar remarks could be offered for the pacifistic strain to Wright's politics, but gentle readers will get the picture.

So we thank Tom Wright for what he's shown us about Jesus and Paul, but we part company as to how that ought to direct our political thinking. We agree about the ends, but we disagree as to the means.

Likewise, we know of few who have assessed the real nature of the Islamic threat like Christopher Hitchens. Hitch, however, has made himself more rich and famous recently with the publication of his anti-theistic screed, God Is Not Great. For Hitchens, any form of theism is antithetical to the legacy of the Enlightenment, which for Hitchens is the source of all that is right with the world.

We, of course, object to the notion that rationality is the same thing as logical positivism, a distinction Hitchens doesn't seem to care to contemplate, as it would render the thesis of his book untenable.

So, our heroes have clay feet. Wright is cool for exegesis but not politics; Hitchens, for politics but not theology. Both are unaware of the disconnect between their views on the two, or at least of other possible connections.

Monday, June 11, 2007

SWNID on Creation Museum

With a busy schedule and not much new in the world, we've taken a vacation from blogging. We return for a quick take, much requested, on the Answers in Genesis Creation Museum, newly opened with much publicity in one of the most rural corners of Greater Cincinnati's I-275 beltway.

First, we aver that we have friends who work quite happily at AIG. We are glad that they've found an outlet for their considerable talents with this organization, and we wish them well in their endeavor.

Second, we aver that we look forward to opportunities that might present themselves to cooperate with AIG in matters of shared interest. Such opportunities have not been forthcoming in the past, but we welcome them in the future.

Third, we aver that we are in general grateful for anything that provokes public discussion about important issues. The museum certainly has done that.

However, we are not at all pleased with what we know of the museum from many reports delivered by a wide range of professional journalists and other observers, some professionals in various fields and some interested amateurs. That accords with what we have observed about AIG in the past.

Our SWNIDish reservation is this: both from science and from biblical interpretation, AIG has less warrant for its insistence on young-earth creationism and flood geology than Darwinists have for the origin of life from primordial soup and its development and diversification through mutation and natural selection. The organization has spent far too much time,effort and money defending the indefensible on these points, while simultaneously attacking other skeptics of Darwinism--call them "old-earth creationists" as a general label--with greater vigor than the Darwinists.

In particular, we note some matters on which AIG and its museum expresses an inappropriate level of confidence as it relates to biblical interpretation:

  • AIG asserts that the Bible teaches that the earth is now about 6000 years old. In fact, there is nothing in the Bible that expresses any particular notion of how old the earth is. The attempt to add up the numbers in the genealogies has been shown multiple times to fail because of what the text itself acknowledges: that the genealogies are partial at best. Further, texts like Job 15:7; Ps 90; Prov 8:25; Eccl 1:10; Hab 3:6; and 2 Pet 3:5 seem to imply that the earth is amazingly ancient. But in sum, it is not the aim or implication of any biblical text or set of texts to assert the age of the earth in even approximate terms, and we find a troubling lack of consciousness on this point in AIG rhetoric.
  • AIG asserts that prior to the fall, all animals were herbivores. This is likewise not a biblical notion. The Bible says nothing about the diet of animals prior to Genesis 3. It does say that death entered the world through Adam (Rom 5:12-21), but it's gratuitous to assume that this implies that nothing at all died prior to the fall. Further, we assume that even AIG understands that plants died prior to the fall, unless they really mean to assert that plants and animals photosynthesized their food prior to the fall.
  • AIG asserts that the Genesis flood is the major cause of many geological features, including sedimentary rocks and their fossils as well as dramatic features of erosion like the Grand Canyon. This is also not a part of the biblical view, which asserts nothing about such matters whatsoever.
  • AIG asserts that dinosaurs and humans lived side-by-side. The Bible, of course, doesn't mention dinosaurs, let alone whether humans lived alongside them.

Since our business is biblical interpretation, and since we begin with as much respect for the authority of the Bible as anyone else (we believe in the truthfulness of every part of the Bible, rightly interpreted, the notion that is commonly labeled "biblical inerrancy," a term still widely abused and misunderstood, and we defy anyone to suggest how someone can be more committed to the authority of the Bible than that), we insist that all biblical interpreters with such respect for the Bible's authority must respect the boundaries and limits of the Bible's statements. To put this one way, we must forever be conscious of the difference between what the Bible says and what we might conjecture from the Bible and other data. AIG has ignored this distinction, and they and their conversation partners are the worse for it.

As an untrained philosopher, we also insist that AIG's epistemology is highly suspect. Their penchant is for asserting that because there are no observers--except God--for the origins of the universe and of life, then one hypothesis about the origin of life is as good as another. This is disingenuous at best. The hypothesis that makes the best sense of the available data, that explains it most coherently, is obviously to be preferred: humans make inferences all the time about events that no one has witnessed, and we readily distinguish between reasonable and unreasonable inferences in such matters. Scientists aren't being deceptive when they say that there is massive evidence from multiple disciplines and sources that clearly imply that our earth and our universe are older than the AIG folks assert by a factor of a million or two, but AIG is being sloppy at best by equivocating about the implications of such evidence.

In our experience, young earthers like AIG parry such data by suggesting that things were created with what might be termed "apparent age." E.g., the stars were created with streams of light already extended from them so that the light reached earth from various stars at various distances all at once; hence, the fact that certain galaxies are billions of light years away says nothing about their age. The biblical anchor for this notion is that Genesis 2 apparently suggests that the first humans were created instantaneously as adults. A hypothetical observer from the future who saw our first parents five minutes after creation would probably assume that they had lived many years before their actual origin. So, it's said, God created the universe with certain features that look older than they really are.

Fair enough. But let's reason backwards through this sequence. If the biblical God created the first humans instantaneously as adults, we would expect them to have normal adult features: full growth, adult strength and coordination, adult intelligence including linguistic fluency, adult social skills and the like. In short, we would expect them to be very much like any two young adults whom we might know--say, Shakira and LeBron James.

But what if on examination, we saw that they had not just the capacities of adults but also the signs of wear-and-tear that adults display who have lived their lives in the usual way from conception to adulthood: worn and decayed teeth, some scarring of the skin, uneven pigmentation from exposure to the sun, knitting together of broken bones, wrinkles from repeated motions, worn joints, toes and fingers bent from repetitive tasks, etc.? If we found such a couple, would we be justified in considering the hypothesis that they were recently created as adults without prior history? There is clearly no way to test such a hypothesis in such an instance, and one would be hard pressed to explain why a creator would act in such a way unless the purpose was to deceive observers.

The fact is that the earth is much more in that latter kind of condition than the kind asserted by AIG. It is, of course, possible that God created in just this way: he created an earth and universe that in all respects, not just certain purposeful and necessary ones, look profoundly older than they actually are. But we must then ask two questions: (a) why would a God like the God of the Bible do such a thing? (b) How would we know if he did?

For the latter question, we observe again that there's nothing in particular in the Bible that necessitates that the biblical creator God acted in this way: the Bible says nothing about the age of the earth. So it won't do to say that we must belive this because the Bible asserts as much, for it doesn't. For the former question, we note that the AIG folks are happy to label natural selection as a "wasteful" process for the biblical Creator to have undertaken. Why they feel so comfortable deriving that conclusion about how God must have acted and can't see their own hypothesis as suggesting a God who creates a world whose physical structures are "deceptive" is beyond our ability to grasp. Certainly the latter label is at least as warranted under their hypothesis as the former is under the Darwinists'.

We close with a recommendation. We have not visited the AIG Creation Museum, but we did recently visit the American Museum of Natural History in New York. We find that brilliant collection to be, for the observer with faith, an impressive testimony to the creative power of the biblical God. In particular, one prominent display includes statements about the philosophical, religious and existential meaning of natural history as currently understood by scientists. Three prominent scientists speak. One is an atheist. One is a pantheist. One is Francis Collins, the head of the human genome project, an evangelical Christian, and the author of a recent book expressing the reasonableness of belief. I doubt that a more honest or impressive presentation would be possible in the public forum. We therefore recommend a visit to the museum, a thoughtful reading of Collins's book, or at least a thoughtful reading of his presentation to the American Scientific Affiliation in 2002 on the subject of science and faith.