Sunday, December 24, 2006

Story of the Year

I was watching This Week with George Stephanopoulos, and realized his 'Story of the Year' question to his panel would be a great question for Theory Bloc. First, some guidelines: I concede that the post of the year and the short history of the blog is undoubtedly 'New Atheism'. Kudos to Ryan for prompting that discussion; the sheer quantity of responses would be noteworthy (I haven't checked but it must be a record for our little blog) but every response was a quality comment, too. That being said, the idea is to consider the story of the year on a world, national, or regional level. Personal or clique issues (my daughter was born in '06) should try to be disregarded (especially now that I have already thrown mine in surreptitiously). Also, comments for this post should be focused on providing the contributor's story of the year, and should not focus on providing counter-arguments to other contributors. Other than that, be as broad or specific as you want. All this is probably understood, but just in case...

The story of the year from this contributor's perspective is the mishandling of the Iraq War. The bumbling in Iraq sent shock waves through the world. First, the immediate ramifications are a potential for loss in Iraq. This could lead to a massive destabilization in the area if the parties involved plunge deeper into civil war. The military emphasis towards Iraq before Afghanistan was fully stabilized might lead to a similar result in a country and conflict that should have been won. This combined with the Israeli conflict in Lebanon severly weakened any political clout that might have been available with other southwest Asian and northeast African predominatly Muslim nations.

The consequences were felt in the U.S. also, with massive losses felt in the midterm elections. While not uncommon, these midterm losses resulted in the resignation/firing of the most polarizing figure in the 'War on Terror': Donald Rumsfeld. The balance of powere in the United States shifted due to the failure in Iraq. I would contend that many less moderate figures (especially in the Republican party) were scrutinized more thoroughly (see Kansas Board of Education) by the electorate due to the glaring mistakes made by President Bush in foreign relations. To be sure, the Iraq War mismanagement did not begin in 2006 and may not end this year, but the tangible ramifications of this mismanagement will surely be appreciated the most in 2006.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

When should I say, "I am running for president!"

Given that our election is just finished, it is natural that we begin debating the next one before our newly elected arrive in office. Of course the big question is: who's running? Who are we debating about, and how quickly can we discredit them?

I think pundits pre-emptively nominated Hillary so that they could open her up for attacks. Attacks that have convinced a lot of people she shouldn't run. I fear the same thing is happening to Mr. Obama. I've already seen Obama 2008 bumper stickers and with his trip to NH, it's on all the news stations. I should mention here that I've been a big Obama supporter since he ran in 2004.

So, when, politically speaking, should someone indicate their candidacy? I don't think Bush was ever really considered a forerunner until the end of the primaries. The early Democratic hopefulls ended up tarnished leaving Kerry, who I think announced well after Dean.

Have Mr. Obama's chances already been ruined? Are the extra months in the limelight worth announcing early for?

Friday, December 01, 2006

New Atheism

Given the recent wave of 'New Atheism' as people seem to be calling it, I figured I would start a controversy here.

First off lets give some background literature, but I think most of you are aware of these already. Wired Magazine's The Church of the Non-Believers article, Sam Harris (End of Faith and Letter to a Christian Nation), and Richard Dawkins (The God Delusion).

Depending on your semantics I am either an agnostic or atheist. I personally agree with Dawkins' argument about the improbability of a Judeo-Christian-Islamic God or any other all-powerful, all-knowing being. Due to natural laws and processes (evolution), intelligence in a system occurs late. Therefore (I'm greatly simplifying his argument) it is unlikely that an intelligent designer caused the universe to begin.

While Dawkins' primary point is that God is very improbable, Sam Harris argues that we should challenge beliefs that have no evidence. By not questioning these beliefs people can undertake bizarre and even harmful behaviors because of them, such as terrorists killing themselves and others because they believe they are going to a better place.

So now to the highly offensive question of the year. If you do believe in a god, why? If not, why?

The second question: Should we challenge other people's beliefs that cannot be backed up by evidence? Is this a good policy for a society?