Archive for January 15th, 2009

“Big Bang Evidence for God” by Frank Turek

Thursday, January 15th, 2009

When I debated atheist Christopher Hitchens recently, one of the eight arguments I offered for God’s existence was the creation of this supremely fine-tuned universe out of nothing.  I spoke of the five main lines of scientific evidence—denoted by the acronym SURGE—that point to the definite beginning of the space-time continuum. They are: The Second Law of Thermodynamics, the Expanding Universe, the Radiation Afterglow from the Big Bang Explosion, the Great galaxy seeds in the Radiation Afterglow, and Einstein’s Theory of General Relativity.

While I don’t have space to unpack this evidence here (see I Don’t Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist), it all points to the fact that the universe began from literally nothing physical or temporal.  Once there was no time, no space, and no matter and then it all banged into existence out of nothing with great precision.

The evidence led astronomer Dr. Robert Jastrow—who until his recent death was the director of the Mount Wilson observatory once led by Edwin Hubble—to author a book called God and the Astronomers. Despite revealing in the first line of chapter 1 that he was personally agnostic about ‘religious matters,” Jastrow reviewed some of the SURGE evidence and concluded,  “Now we see how the astronomical evidence leads to a biblical view of the origin of the world. The details differ, but the essential elements in the astronomical and biblical accounts of Genesis are the same: the chain of events leading to man commenced suddenly and sharply at a definite moment in time, in a flash of light and energy.”

In an interview, Jastrow went even further, admitting that “Astronomers now find they have painted themselves into a corner because they have proven, by their own methods, that the world began abruptly in an act of creation to which you can trace the seeds of every star, every planet, every living thing in this cosmos and on the earth. And they have found that all this happened as a product of forces they cannot hope to discover. . . . That there are what I or anyone would call supernatural forces at work is now, I think, a scientifically proven fact.”

Jastrow was not alone in evoking the supernatural to explain the beginning. Athough he found it personally “repugnant,” General Relativity expert Arthur Eddington admitted the same when he said, “The beginning seems to present insuperable difficulties unless we agree to look on it as frankly supernatural.”

I mentioned in the debate that other scientists who made Big-Bang-related discoveries also conclude that the evidence is consistent with the Biblical account. Robert Wilson—co-discoverer of the Radiation Afterglow, which won him a Noble Prize in Physics— observed, “Certainly there was something that set it off. Certainly, if you’re religious, I can’t think of a better theory of the origin of the universe to match with Genesis.” George Smoot—co-discoverer of the Great Galaxy Seeds which won him a Nobel Prize as well—echoed Wilson’s assessment by saying, “There is no doubt that a parallel exists between the Big Bang as an event and the Christian notion of creation from nothing.”

Dr. Jastrow, despite his agnosticism, told us where the evidence leads. He ended his book this way: “For the scientist who has lived by his faith in the power of reason, the story ends like a bad dream. He has scaled the mountains of ignorance; he is about to conquer the highest peak; as he pulls himself over the final rock, he is greeted by a band of theologians who have been sitting there for centuries.”

Read the complete article here.

“The Unconstitutional Constitution” by George Will

Thursday, January 15th, 2009

WASHINGTON — Last November, 13,402,566 California voters expressed themselves for or against Proposition 8, which said that their state’s Constitution should be amended to define marriage as a relationship between a man and a woman. The voters, confident that they had a right to decide this question by referendum, endorsed Proposition 8 by a margin of 52.3 to 47.7.

Now comes California’s attorney general, Jerry Brown — always a fountain of novel arguments — with a 111-page brief asking the state Supreme Court to declare the constitutional amendment unconstitutional. He favors same-sex marriages and says the amendment violates Article 1, Section 1 of California’s Constitution which enumerates “inalienable rights” to, among other things, liberty, happiness and privacy.

Brown’s audacious argument is a viscous soup of natural-law and natural- rights philosophizing, utterly untethered from case law. It is designed to effect a constitutional revolution by establishing an unchallengeable judicial hegemony. He argues that:

The not-really-sovereign people cannot use the constitutionally provided amendment process to define the scope of rights enumerated in the Constitution; California’s judiciary, although established by the state’s Constitution, has the extra-constitutional right to supplement that enumeration by brooding about natural law, natural justice and natural rights, all arising from some authority somewhere outside the Constitution; the judiciary has the unchallengeable right to say what social policies are entailed by or proscribed by the state Constitution’s declaration of rights and other rights discovered by judges.

What is natural justice? Learned and honorable people disagree. Which is why such consensus as can be reached is codified in a constitution. But Brown’s reasoning would make California’s Constitution subordinate to judges’ flights of fancy regarding natural justice. Judges could declare unconstitutional any act of Constitution-revising by the people.

In a brief responding to Brown’s, Kenneth Starr — former federal judge, former U.S. solicitor general, current dean of Pepperdine University Law School — notes the absurd consequences of the proposition that “the people can never amend the Constitution to overrule judicial interpretations of inalienable rights.” Long ago, a California court struck down a Sunday closing law because “it infringes upon the liberty of the citizen, by restraining his right to acquire property.” And a court struck down a law against scalping theater tickets because it violated rights “inherent in every natural person.” By Brown’s reasoning, judges could declare unconstitutional any constitutional amendment revising these judicial judgments.

Read the rest of the article here.

Highest Saudi Cleric: It’s An Injustice NOT to Marry Girls Aged 10

Thursday, January 15th, 2009

This is child molestation, plain and simple.

Ten-year-old girls are ready for marriage, according to Saudi Arabia’s most senior cleric.

Sheikh Abdul-Aziz Al Sheikh, the country’s grand mufti, told Al Hayat newspaper that those saying ten or 12-year-old girls are too young to marry are being ‘unfair’ to them.

Al Sheikh’s comments come at a time when Saudi human rights groups have been pushing the government to put an end to marriages involving the very young and to define a minimum age for marriage.

In the past few months, Saudi newspapers have highlighted several cases in which young girls were married off to much older men or very young boys.

Though the mufti’s pronouncements are respected and provide guidance, the government is not legally bound by them.

On Sunday, the government-run Human Rights Commission condemned marriages of minor girls, saying such marriages are an ‘inhumane violation’ and rob children of their rights.

The commission’s statement followed a ruling by a court in Oneiza in central Saudi Arabia last month that dismissed a divorce petition by the mother of an eight-year-old girl whose father married her off to a man in his 50s.

Newspaper reports said the court argued that the mother did not have the right to file such a case on behalf of her daughter and said that the petition should be filed by the girl when she reaches puberty.

Responding to a question about parents who force their underage daughters to marry, the mufti said: ‘We hear a lot about the marriage of underage girls in the media, and we should know that Islamic law has not brought injustice to women.’

The mufti said a good upbringing will make a girl capable of carrying out her duties as a wife and that those who say women should not marry before the age of 25 are following a ‘bad path’.

‘Our mothers and before them, our grandmothers, married when they were barely 12,’ said Al Sheikh, according to the Al-Hayat newspaper.

There are no statistics to show how many marriages involving children are performed in Saudi Arabia every year.

It is also not clear whether these unions are on the rise or whether people are hearing about them more now because of the prevalence of media outlets and easy access to the Internet.

Activists say the girls are given away in return for hefty dowries or as a result of long-standing custom in which a father promises his infant daughters and sons to cousins out of a belief that marriage will protect them from illicit relationships.

Original Link.

“Israel is Well Within its Rights” by Alan Dershowitz

Thursday, January 15th, 2009

What if Israel defended its citizens the way the British, the French, the Americans and the Russians did? When German rockets hit British cities during the World War II, Prime Minister Winston Churchill retaliated by bombing German cities, killing thousands of German civilians, and promised to continue until Germany’s unconditional surrender. The United States did the same following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. The French did much worse in Algeria and the Russians showed no concern for civilian life in Chechnya or Georgia.

The IDF, on the other hand, has gone to extraordinary lengths to minimize civilian casualties, despite the reality that Hamas deliberately fires its rockets from densely populated civilian areas and hides its rocket launchers in schools, hospitals and mosques.

Every Hamas rocket attack against Israeli civilians – and there have been more than 6,500 of them since Israel ended its occupation of Gaza – is an armed attack against Israel under Article 51 of the United Nations Charter, which authorizes member nations to respond militarily to armed attacks against it.

Under international law, Israel is entitled to do whatever it takes militarily to stop Hamas rockets from targeting its civilians. Every Hamas rocket has the potential to kill dozens of Israeli civilians. Recently one hit a school just hours after the principal dismissed the students, fearing such an attack. If the rocket had hit and killed hundreds of schoolchildren, would those who protest Israeli actions acknowledge that Israel would then have the right to respond? No country needs allow terrorists to play Russian roulette with the lives of its children.

In fact, under international law, Israel has the right to declare all-out war against the Hamas-controlled government of Gaza. In an all-out war, there would be no obligation to provide humanitarian assistance, electricity or any other services to an enemy who had started the war by an armed attack.

No one condemned Great Britain and the United States for the collateral damage it caused while trying to defeat those who attacked it during the second world war. Moreover, Germany did not deny the right of Great Britain or the United States to exist. The Hamas Charter not only denies Israel’s right to exist, it calls for the complete destruction of the Jewish state. Surely Israel has as much right to defend its citizens as did the United States and Great Britain.

Why then is Israel singled out for such ferocious criticism?

Indeed, the only reason Israel has not won overwhelming military victories in Lebanon in 2006 and in Gaza now, is that Israel has decided to engage in only limited and proportional military actions designed simply to stop the rocket attacks. Yet it is being condemned both for not winning a decisive victory and for killing too many civilians.

Hamas has learned how to manipulate the media’s coverage of Israeli military actions. They deliberately fire their rockets from behind civilian shields in order to provoke Israel to respond and kill civilians. They are then ready to bring out the cameras to record and transmit every civilian death around the world.

Well, not quite every civilian death. The day before Israel launched its air attack against Hamas, Hamas fired a rocket in the general direction of Sderot. The rocket fell short of its mark and landed in Gaza – killing two young Palestinian girls. Hamas, which imposes total censorship in Gaza, refused to allow cameras to record or transmit pictures of these dead Palestinian girls, because they were killed not by Israeli rockets, but rather by Palestinian rockets.

The Hamas tactic is encouraged by selective condemnation of Israel. Such condemnation creates a win-win situation for Hamas terrorism. Every time they kill an Israeli civilian, they win; every time Israel kills a Palestinian civilian, Hamas also wins.

The only way to defeat this cynical tactic is for the international community to place the blame squarely on Hamas for engaging in the double war crime of targeting Israeli civilians and using Palestinian civilians as human shields.

Dershowitz is a professor of law at Harvard. He is the author of many books, including, most recently, “The Case Against Israel’s Enemies.”

Original Link.

‘Are Human Rights for Some, But Not for Others?’

Thursday, January 15th, 2009

Liraz Madmony, a 23-year-old law student from Sderot, addressed the UN Human Rights Council Special Session on Gaza in Geneva on behalf of the European Union of Jewish Students (EUJS) on Monday, before the vote by the council that condemned Israel’s military offensive in Gaza and resolved to send a fact-finding mission to investigate alleged Israeli abuses against Palestinians.

Here is the text of her speech.

Thank you, Mr. President.

I come from Sderot, the city in Israel that for eight years has been terrorized, by 10,000 rockets fired against us from Gaza.

As a law student, I learned – and I believe – that all human beings have the right to peace and security.

But when I see today’s resolution, I ask: Why is the United Nations ignoring my suffering? When the terrorists committed these 10,000 violations of international human rights and humanitarian law, why was the UN silent?

Are human rights for some, but not others?

The constant assault on Sderot has destroyed our ability to lead a normal life. The warning before each attack gives us only 15 seconds to run for shelter. Fifteen seconds that will decide, life or death.

Mr. President, who will protect our right to life? My family does not have a bomb shelter, so we run to the most protected room, which is the shower.

There is one attack I will never forget. We heard the siren at seven in the morning. We ran to the shower. The rockets fell next to my house. My little brother, who was 14, went to see if anyone needed help. He found a man whose legs were blown off, and a woman blown to pieces.

My youngest brother is six. The rockets have been falling for eight years. He knows no other reality.

Everyone suffers in Sderot. Fathers and mothers are afraid to go to work, creating poverty. Kids are afraid to go to school. I have missed many of my law classes. My friends are afraid to visit. The streets lie empty.

I dream of the hometown that I remember. When the park near my house was filled with happy families and children playing. When people enjoyed life.

I still dream of peace. It will come when the rulers of Gaza choose humanity over hate, when they stop firing on our children while hiding behind their own.

We refuse to grant victory to the terrorists. We choose to live, staying strong with our faith, family and love of country.

Mr. President, who will protect our most basic human rights? My country is now trying its best, and all who love life and desire peace should pray they succeed.

Thank you, Mr. President.

Original Link.