Friday, December 10, 2004

Evidence and Religion

Douglas Harper is definitely one of our favorite internet writers.

In his posting on Christian Fallacies, which should be mandatory reading for all religious fundamentalists of all religions, he quotes Richard Dawkins on the conflict between religions:

"The virtue of using evidence is precisely that we can come to an agreement about it. But if you listen to two people who are arguing about something, and they each of them have passionate faith that they're right, but they believe different things -- they belong to different religions, different faiths, there is nothing they can do to settle their disagreement short of shooting each other, which is what they very often actually do."

That is certainly one aspect of the explanation for the current world conflicts involving Judaism, Christianity and Islam.

Obviously, we could discuss God peacefully on the basis of what is known to be fact, e.g. modern genetics, astronomy (God's abode), anthropology, etc.

But facts and evidence have something to do with proof.

"Belief" and "faith", on the other hand, are the "absence" of proof,

otherwise they would be called "knowledge" and "certainty".

As Dawkins states:

"I am against religion because it teaches us to be satisfied with not understanding the world... Religions do make claims about the universe--the same kinds of claims that scientists make, except they're usually false... The trouble is that God in this sophisticated, physicist's sense bears no resemblance to the God of the Bible or any other religion... Faith is the great cop-out, the great excuse to evade the need to think and evaluate evidence. Faith is belief in spite of, even perhaps because of, the lack of evidence.... "

We agree. A modern man can believe in God, based on the modern evidence, but this God has no resemblance to the God of the religions and is surely not found in their religious works, which are nothing else but the creations and hypothecations of men who lived long ago in a world where knowledge was scarce and superstition rampant.

Freedom of the Press and Power of the Media

How far should freedom of the press extend?

Robert D. Kaplan has a superb article at the Policy Review Online entitled "The Media and Medievalism".

Kaplan's article is an erudite analysis of the power of modern media.

Via Classical Values,InstaPundit and Silent Running...

the blog Silent Running in its posting "Wretchard Is Right" writes:

"This is truly a magnificent essay. In fact, if there is one thing you should read this month, if not this year (that is at it's end, anyway), this should be it."

Kaplan's article easily serves as a basis for argument to limit the freedom of the press: for example, in cases where lives have been endangered or are in danger of being endangered. This is a current legal issue in the Plame case. See e.g. Steven Chapman at the Chicago Tribune in "Why the press is wrong about the Valerie Plame case" (registration required), where Chapman writes:

"Unmasking covert operatives is serious business, with potential life-and-death consequences. It's also a felony under federal law."

The 1st Amendment free speech protection was never intended to cover reporters who essentially are doing the publication dirty work for felons and hiding behind journalistic privilege to enable what otherwise is illegal.

Via TigerHawk (who we definitely recommend for blogrolling) we see that Eugene Volokh has a December 2, 2004 op-ed at the New York Times entitled "You Can Blog, but You Can't Hide".

Volokh addresses the questions:

"Should there be a journalist's privilege? What should its scope be? And who exactly qualifies as a journalist?". Read the article for his analysis, especially as it applies to blogging and bloggers. Are we also entitled to some kind of journalistic privilege? Logically, yes. Practically, questionable. If bloggers are "journalists", then everyone is (potentially) a journalist. This is a logic which speaks against giving ANYONE special privileges.

We agree with Volokh's statement concerning journalistic privilege that:

"Communications that facilitate crime or fraud, for example, are not protected."

And that seems to us to be the case in the Plame case where the "leak" of a covert operative's identity is a material element of the crime itself.

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