Hard-hitting questions for Egypt’s Morsi

The Associated Press brings us the latest from Cairo:

Islamists approved a draft constitution for Egypt early Friday without the participation of liberal and Christian members, seeking to pre-empt a court ruling that could dissolve their panel with a rushed, marathon vote that further inflames the clash between the opposition and President Mohammed Morsi.

The move advanced a charter with an Islamist bent that rights experts say could give Muslim clerics oversight over legislation and bring restrictions on freedom of speech, women’s rights and other liberties…

The Islamist-dominated assembly that has been working on the constitution for months raced to pass it, voting article by article on the draft’s more than 230 articles for more than 16 hours. The lack of inclusion was on display in the nationally televised gathering: Of the 85 members in attendance, there was not a single Christian and only four women, all Islamists. Many of the men wore beards, the hallmark of Muslim conservatives.

For weeks, liberal, secular and Christian members, already a minority on the 100-member panel, have been withdrawing to protest what they call the Islamists’ hijacking of the process.

You should read the whole thing. It’s a lengthy piece with tons of reporting. I love how the reporters give specifics. So that’s your example of good reporting from Egypt.

I also wanted to highlight this piece by Time. Three reporters got a huge get — the chance to interview the man who just went “temporary dictator” on his country. He’s asserted that all his decisions are final, can’t be appealed, and can’t be overturned by courts. He’s further said that no judicial body can dissolve the assembly writing the new constitution.

So what do these three reporters ask the man who used to be the Muslim Brotherhood’s enforcer? Here’s what they came up with:

You’re on the world stage now.

What was it like to deal with president Obama during the Gaza cease-fire?

Is the Muslim Brotherhood in fact a democratic organization?

Last week’s decree created a lot of controversy. If you had it to do over again, would you handle it differently? Revise it?

This year, 2012, was a big year, a lot happened. Many hail you as a statesman, others warn you’re a new pharaoh.

Is there enough of a buy-in from the society at large on the constitution?

But what about the political environment around it? Don’t events of the last week indicate a society pulling part rather than coming together around it?

As the fourth question shows, this interview definitely took place this week — after the events of last week that provoked global outrage. Should I assume they were only allowed to ask questions that wouldn’t raise the ire of Morsy? What do you think of these questions?

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Gov’t RFID tracking: Creepy or mark of the beast?

When I first heard rumblings about school districts in Texas using locator chips to track students, I assumed it wasn’t true.

So my jaw dropped while reading this Associated Press story. It begins:

To 15-year-old Andrea Hernandez, the tracking microchip embedded in her student ID card is a “mark of the beast,” sacrilege to her Christian faith – not to mention how it pinpoints her location, even in the school bathroom.

But to her budget-reeling San Antonio school district, those chips carry a potential $1.7 million in classroom funds.

Starting this fall, the fourth-largest school district in Texas is experimenting with “locator” chips in student ID badges on two of its campuses, allowing administrators to track the whereabouts of 4,200 students with GPS-like precision. Hernandez’s refusal to participate isn’t a twist on teenage rebellion, but has launched a debate over privacy and religion that has forged a rare like-mindedness between typically opposing groups.

When Hernandez and her parents balked at the so-called SmartID, the school agreed to remove the chip but still required her to wear the badge. The family refused on religious grounds, stating in a lawsuit that even wearing the badge was tantamount to “submission of a false god” because the card still indicated her participation.

Now I find government agencies electronically stalking children to be creeptastic just for basic civil liberties reasons, but I’m intrigued by this religion argument. Most of the story focuses on either the involvement of civil liberties groups against the practice or the school district’s justification for the practice, which it assures everyone is mostly financial, with a bit of a nod to efficiency and security. (Funds are paid to schools based on attendance so kids who are ditching one class but still on campus can be counted for the daily tally.)

What I was really hoping for, though, was an explanation of the family’s religious views on the mark of the beast and how this RFID card relates to those views. On that front, I was a bit disappointed:

John Whitehead, [founder of Virginia-based civil rights group, The Rutherford Institute] believes the religious component of the lawsuit makes it stronger than if it only objected on grounds of privacy. The lawsuit cites scriptures in the book of Revelation, stating that “acceptance of a certain code … from a secular ruling authority” is a form of idolatry.

Wearing the badge, the family argues, takes it a step further.

“It starts with that religious concern,” Whitehead said. “There is a large mark of Evangelicals that believe in the `mark of the beast.’ “

At first I tried to find the scripture verse quoted above. Then I realized that it’s just a quote from the lawsuit and that the lawsuit cites scripture. I’m sure that if you’re already familiar with the line of thinking espoused here, you understand perfectly what this all means. But it’s a bit oblique for those of us who aren’t as familiar. I don’t quite get the religious objection, based on this story’s characterization of it at least. I found this Courthouse News Service write-up of the lawsuit a bit more helpful just because it quotes a bit more from the lawsuit:

A magnet high school is booting out a Christian student because she has religious objections to wearing the school’s chip-embedded ID badge, the student claims in court.

Andrea Hernandez, a student at John Jay High School and John Jay Science and Engineering Academy, sued the Northside Independent School District, Jay High School Principal Robert Harris and Jay Academy Principal Jay Sumpter, in Bexar County Court…

Hernandez and her father object to the badges, based on Scripture in the book of Revelation.

“According to these scriptures, an individual’s acceptance of a certain code, identified with his or her person, as a pass conferring certain privileges from a secular ruling authority, is a form of idolatry or submission to a false god,” the complaint states. “Plaintiff was offered an ‘accommodation’ whereby the radio chip would be removed from the plaintiff’s badge. Under this ‘accommodation,’ however, plaintiff would still be required to wear the badge around her neck as an outward symbol of her ‘participation’ in the project.”

Hernandez says defendant Harris has banned her from distributing flyers and petitions to other students at the school, arguing against the project.

I’m sure there’s much more that could be written about this passage from Revelation and how it relates to some people’s objections to RFID tracking devices issued by government agencies. It sounds like there was not much explanation in the court filings.

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Sandra Fluke, Time’s ‘Person of the Year’ and tender stories

Time magazine is doing its annual PR blitz for its “Person of the Year.” After I won the designation in 2006, I stopped paying attention to it. Since then the honor has gone to Vladimir Putin, Barack Obama, Ben Bernanke, Mark Zuckerberg and “the protester.” And yes, if you’re wondering, the tradition of selecting a Man of the Year began in 1927 with Time editors contemplating newsworthy stories possible during a slow news week. We’ve all been there.

Among the nominees this year are Ai Weiwei, Bashar Assad, Felix Baumgartner, Joe Biden (fer real), Bo Xilai, Chris Christie, Bill Clinton, Hillary Clinton, Stephen Colbert, Gabrielle Douglas, Roger Goodell, the Higgs boson, E.L. James, Jay-Z, Kim Jong Un, the Mars Rover, Marissa Mayer, Mohamed Morsi, Psy, Pussy Riot, John Roberts, Aung San Suu Kyi and Thein Sein, Undocumented Immigrants, Malala Yousafzai.

The winners, no matter how unworthy, tend to be from the United States. But we have a fair number of nominees from other countries. I’m a bit surprised Chen Guangcheng wasn’t on there. I might also note that the religious dimensions of the list are somewhat slight. Readers of our recent post on the “moderate” Muslim Brotherhood may appreciate that the write-up for Morsi included this line, “The Muslim Brotherhood’s religiosity is moderate, or at least moderated by pragmatism; its politics are populist and likely the template for a number of other fledgling democracies in the region.”

The entry for Yousafzai was a nice tribute to her devout Muslim father who supports her and her educational goals. The last line is “It is among the tenderest of stories in the world of conservative Islam.”

But I bring all this up because of the write-up for another deserving nominee — Sandra Fluke. While I tend to think the prize is too American-focused, if it goes in that direction again this year, she should definitely win. I only wish she could win it in conjunction with the media that has been so supportive of her during her entire public relations journey. You could say their love for her is among the tenderest of stories in the world of mainstream media. (For more on that, you can see some of our posts on the coverage of Fluke here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here and here. And if/when Fluke does win, I hope she can accept the award with Cecile Richards, Andrea Mitchell and the whole Church of Planned Parenthood. They all had an amazing year and they deserve credit.)

Anyway, here’s the write-up of our Person of the Year:

The daughter of a conservative Christian pastor, Sandra Fluke, 31, became a women’s-rights activist in college and continued her advocacy as a law student at Georgetown. After she complained about being denied a chance to testify at a Republican-run House hearing on insurance coverage for birth control, Rush Limbaugh called Fluke a “slut.” Democrats and many Republicans reacted with outrage, and the left made Limbaugh’s slur Exhibit A in what they called a GOP “war on women.” Fluke, meanwhile, weathered the attention with poise and maturity and emerged as a political celebrity. Democrats gave her a national-convention speaking slot as part of their push to make reproductive rights a central issue in the 2012 presidential campaign — one that helped Barack Obama trounce Mitt Romney among single women on Election Day.

Technically the hearing was on religious liberty, but the media have long decided that the issue is best framed otherwise.

But what I found interesting was that Time has described Fluke’s father as a “conservative Christian pastor.” We learned earlier that “The Rev. Richard Fluke, Sandra’s father, is a part-time licensed local pastor who shares the pulpit at Tatesville United Methodist Church in Everett, Pa., with two other pastors. Both he and his wife, Betty Kay, are proud of their daughter.”

I know enough Methodists to know that some are very conservative and some are very progressive. The leadership of the denomination tends to be liberal but Methodist polity and culture permits some significant variance. I would love to know more about his conservatism or how that descriptor was chosen. What does it mean in this context? Maybe when she wins the award, we’ll get some substantiation about Fluke’s conservative Christian upbringing.

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Going off-script: Angus Jones zaps ‘Two and a Half Men’

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First things first. I sincerely hope that you’ve never had the displeasure of watching the abominable show “Two and a Half Men.”

If I were to draft a list of the top 10 things that make me feel alienated from my fellow citizens, the fact that this was for many years the most watched show in America would be right up there at the top of the list. It’s so vile and unfunny. And I’ve never even come close to seeing an actual episode — just a few snippets here and there.

However, as millions and millions of Americans know, the “half” in the title refers to the kid on the sitcom and he went full Charlie Sheen recently and ripped on the show.

This not being standard operating procedure in Hollywood, his rant made headlines. What makes it interesting for our purposes is that the comments against the show were nothing but religious and were made in the context of a recorded testimony of his Christian faith. So my fave story has to be the one that focuses not on the content of the comments but, rather, the business side of things. Entertainment Weekly has a piece headlined “Angus T. Jones outburst: Has he breached his ‘Two and a Half Men’ contract?” The end of that piece says, by the way:

Jones gave his testimony to religious conspiracy theorist Chris “The Forerunner” Hudson, who no doubt hoped his surprising interview with the star would shine a larger spotlight on his end-of-days beliefs.

So I know nothing about Chris Hudson. I’m sorry, I know nothing about this whole “The Forerunner” thing. However, I prefer my journalists to show me how a person is a religious conspiracy theorist rather than merely to assert that he is. As it’s written, the reporter makes it seem like belief in “end-of-days” is the substantiation for the charge, which I assume was unintended. I tried to dig around for some more info and it looks like Hudson is involved with theories about The Illuminati.

I rather liked how the Los Angeles Times handled it:

Angus T. Jones doesn’t much like “Two and a Half Men,” and he wishes viewers wouldn’t watch the show.

So said the 19-year-old TV star in Christian testimony shot principally in his production trailer and posted Monday by the Forerunner Christian Church on YouTube.

“Jake from ‘Two and a Half Men’ means nothing. He is a nonexistent character … ,” Jones said, starting about halfway through the video above. “If you watch ‘Two and a Half Men,’ please stop watching ‘Two and a Half Men.’ I’m on ‘Two and a Half Men,’ and I don’t want to be on it.

“Please stop watching it; stop filling your head with filth. Please. People say it’s just entertainment. … Do some research on the effects of television and your brain, and I promise you you’ll have a decision to make when it comes to television, and especially with what you watch.” …

“A lot of people don’t like to think about how deceptive the enemy is. He’s been doing this for a lot longer than any of us have been around … ,” Jones said, presumably referring to Satan. “There’s no playing around when it comes to eternity.”

Just a simple set-up, a helpful amount of interpretation, and lots of quotes. The USA Today story on the matter was interesting because it never mentioned which religion influenced Jones. The most it ever says is here:

Two and a Half Men has a new critic — and he’s on the inside.

In a YouTube video, Angus T. Jones, who plays the teen Jake Harper on the CBS sitcom, tells viewers not to watch the series because it contains “filth.” His comments are part of a religious testimony given to The Forerunner Chronicles.

Particularly considering the obliqueness of the name of the outfit to which he gave his testimony, a bit more information sure would have been helpful. You think?

In other journalism news, The Hollywood Reporter handled this problem with a much more detailed report. The Associated Press and Variety each had short reports, too.

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‘Moderate’ Muslim Brotherhood’s Egyptian power grab

Protests broke out in Egypt in recent days over President Mohamed Morsi’s unilateral decree assuming widespread powers that may not be challenged or questioned. The Associated Press carried a list of some of those powers, beginning with:

- All laws and decisions by the president are final, cannot be appealed, overturned or halted by the courts or other bodies. This applies to decisions he has made since taking office in June and any he makes until a new constitution is approved and a new parliament is elected, expected in the spring at the earliest.

- No judicial body can dissolve the upper house of parliament or the assembly writing the new constitution. Both are dominated by the Brotherhood and other Islamists and several cases demanding their disbanding were before the courts, which previously dissolved the lower house of parliament.

Cairo’s English-language paper Al Ahram reports that “the decree also protects the Shura Council (the upper, consultative house of parliament) and the Islamist-led Constituent Assembly (tasked with drafting a new constitution) against dissolution by court order.” Al Ahram is a great source for news right now if you’re interested in what’s going on in Egypt. It was there I learned that the chairman of the Shura Council said Morsi went too far with his declaration. He’s a member of the Muslim Brotherhood’s Faith and Justice Party, so his disagreement was something of a surprise.

Morsi, a long-time Muslim Brotherhood activist and the first Islamist elected as head of an Arab state, says not to worry, that the decrees are totally temporary. Somehow the non-Islamists of Egypt aren’t convinced. I’m just wondering if dictators always insisted that their power-taking was temporary or if that’s just a 20th-century innovation.

Morsi’s timing for the power grab wasn’t totally off. He just brokered a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas, leading to plaudits from a variety of leaders. Morsi has enjoyed significant support from the United States, ever since he ran against even stricter Islamists.

Which leads me a larger journalism question. I wonder if journalists have been led off their game a bit because Morsi is supported by the United States and/or because the Muslim Brotherhood is viewed less strict in tone an substance than certain Islamist elements in Egypt. I first noticed this earlier in the year when some media types described the Muslim Brotherhood as “moderate.” I noticed that others were resisting that description, even while acknowledging that the Muslim Brotherhood was less strict.

The New York Times has covered the Egypt story thoroughly throughout the year and I appreciate the way reporter David Kirkpatrick has focused on specific examples to define the Muslim Brotherhood’s particular niche within Egyptian Islamism. I had wanted to highlight this Q&A the paper ran between readers and reporters after a brief interview of Morsi was published in September. Kirkpatrick’s answers really show his reportorial style. It’s clear he has a good grasp of the Muslim Brotherhood perspective, as evidenced in this weekend’s story about judge’s revolting:

What set off the battle was the year-end deadline for the Constitutional Assembly chosen last spring to draft a new constitution. There had been rumors that the Supreme Constitutional Court was poised to dissolve the assembly in a ruling next Sunday. Top courts had already dissolved both an earlier Constitutional Assembly and the Parliament. All three bodies were dominated by Islamists, who have prevailed in elections, and many of the top judges harbor deep fears of an Islamist takeover.

As the deadlines loomed in recent weeks, the assembly’s Islamist leaders began to rush the debates. The assembly had already beaten back the efforts of ultraconservative Salafis to significantly expand the role of Islam in government. But in the last two weeks, many members of the non-Islamist minority began complaining of strong-arming and quit the assembly, slowing its deliberations and hurting its credibility.

Mr. Morsi, a former leader of the Muslim Brotherhood, said he issued his decree to give the assembly a two-month extension and protect it from judicial dissolution, so that its members could work out compromises and avoid the formation of yet another assembly. His supporters accuse many in the assembly’s non-Islamist minority of deliberately dragging their feet in order to obstruct the path to a constitutional democracy because they cannot accept their electoral defeat.

“They are afraid of democracy, really,” Essam el-Erian, vice chairman of the Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party, said in an interview this month. “They only debate to block the way, to stop the constitutional process.”

Mr. Morsi’s critics say he could have found a less confrontational tactic to achieve his goal. But in denouncing his decree on Saturday, the Judges Club and some others in the secular opposition, including Mr. Moussa, called for a new assembly less dominated by Islamists.

If interested in an alternate view about which party has trouble with the difficulties of democracy, read this EUObserver analysis from Koert Debeuf. Reuters had more over a week ago about the Christian and liberal opposition within the Constitutional Assembly, leading to resignations. While only 10 percent of the population, stories this weekend seemed to give short shrift to the Copts in Egypt who have voiced significant concern about their fate under growing Islamist power.

What do you think about media coverage of the situation in Egypt, both from this weekend and throughout the year? Do you think media outlets have had blinders on about the Brotherhood or the ease with which Islamism blends with democracy? Have you seen any other good coverage worth highlighting?

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Jack Taylor’s 138-point game and the Gospel of Matthew

Even though I’m not a big basketball fan, I’ve had a lot of fun with this story about Grinnell College’s Jack Taylor shattering the NCAA record books by scoring 138 points in a single game. The whole team beat Faith Baptist Bible 179-104. Faith Baptist Bible’s David Larson went an impressive 34 for 44 shots to score 70 points, too! Imagine scoring that many points and being a footnote to the story.

Anyway, all the outlets covered it and ESPN had this write-up, using Associated Press reporting. Let’s cut right to the religion news portion of the story that caused one reader to send it in:

Before his squad took the floor Tuesday night, Taylor met with a few teammates for a pregame devotional. It was the first time that Taylor, a sophomore at the Division III school, had ever read Bible verses with other players prior to tipoff.

They focused on Matthew 25, a chapter that features a parable about the value of talents.

“I gotta thank the man upstairs,” Taylor said. “I was able to multiply my talents tonight.”

Is the parable about “the value” of talents? The submitter thought the reporter was simply confused but it’s not necessarily in error. The parable is about what it means to be a faithful servant in God’s kingdom. It’s called the Parable of the Talents because of Jesus’ reference to talents — that is, to monetary units. It does sound like the reporter is thinking of talents as in skills.

As the submitter said:

It’s a nitpick in the grand scheme, but if I were drinking coffee this morning, I surely would have spit it!

Well, we wouldn’t want that.

But on this Thanksgiving, I wish all of our readers a blessed day, surrounded by family and friends. Thank you for all you do throughout the year to make this such a fun discussion sight.

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When Obama didn’t ‘presume to know’ Creation details

Yesterday I wrote a jeremiad against the media’s curiously inconsistent approach to science. The hook was the media outrage over Sen. Marco Rubio’s comments (in the middle of a fluffy GQ interview about rap music) equivocating on the age of the earth.

I didn’t have a beef with the question so much as the larger media context, where only certain people are asked science questions.

Over at National Review, I began reading a piece that begins with a telling of a Hindu creation story. Reporter Dan Foster discusses some of the questions he has about it, and adds:

I’m sure practicing Hindus have views on this and other matters of their faith, and an enterprising reporter might have asked a prominent Hindu — say Representative Tulsi Gabbard (D., Hawaii), the first to be elected to Congress — about hers. But near as I can tell, nobody has. Sure, it was widely noted as a source of pluralist pride that Representative Gabbard would be sworn in on a copy of the Bhagavad Gita, and presumably Gabbard’s connection to that book is sufficient to ground its use in underwriting her sacred oath, but nobody thought to query her about how she understood and related to the truths contained in it.

He brings up the different standard for Rubio and notes that some critics think the question was silly:

But a better question might be, why wasn’t Gabbard asked it? Or President Obama, or Senator Harry Reid or Representative Keith Ellison? After all, Gabbard’s espoused Hinduism, like Obama’s espoused Christianity or Ellison’s espoused Islam or Harry Reid’s espoused Mormonism, entails a range of commitments to claims that are, prima facie, at odds with the empirical record. But there isn’t a cottage industry in interrogating Democrats on their faith the way there is with religious conservatives.

Except that Obama has been asked the question! Really! It wasn’t from the media, of course, but it happened none-the-less. I want us to consider the media reaction to President Obama’s statement versus the media meltdown and prominent coverage given to Rubio’s.

First, though, let’s look at what President Obama said, as reported this week by Slate in a piece headlined, “Who Said It: Marco Rubio or Barack Obama? Willful ignorance of science is a bipartisan value“:

And here’s then-Sen. Obama, D-Ill., speaking at the Compassion Forum at Messiah College in Grantham, Pa. on April 13, 2008:

Q: Senator, if one of your daughters asked you—and maybe they already have—“Daddy, did god really create the world in 6 days?,” what would you say?

A: What I’ve said to them is that I believe that God created the universe and that the six days in the Bible may not be six days as we understand it … it may not be 24-hour days, and that’s what I believe. I know there’s always a debate between those who read the Bible literally and those who don’t, and I think it’s a legitimate debate within the Christian community of which I’m a part. My belief is that the story that the Bible tells about God creating this magnificent Earth on which we live—that is essentially true, that is fundamentally true. Now, whether it happened exactly as we might understand it reading the text of the Bible: That, I don’t presume to know.

And the response to these statements? Was it the same as the response to Rubio’s? You know the answer.

Galaxy image via Shutterstock.

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Marco Rubio and the media’s curiously inconsistent approach to science

YouTube Preview ImageI wonder if any of our readers have read Thomas Nagel’s new book Mind and Cosmos: Why the Materialist Neo-Darwinian Conception of Nature is Almost Certainly False. I’ve been reading the reviews and they’re fascinating. The New Republic review says Nagel, a devout atheist, has “performed an important service with his withering critical examination of some of the most common and oppressive dogmas of our age.”

From Alvin Plantinga’s review “Why Darwinist Materialism Is Wrong” in The New Republic:

ACCORDING TO a semi-established consensus among the intellectual elite in the West, there is no such person as God or any other supernatural being. Life on our planet arose by way of ill-understood but completely naturalistic processes involving only the working of natural law. Given life, natural selection has taken over, and produced all the enormous variety that we find in the living world. Human beings, like the rest of the world, are material objects through and through; they have no soul or ego or self of any immaterial sort. At bottom, what there is in our world are the elementary particles described in physics, together with things composed of these particles.

I say that this is a semi-established consensus, but of course there are some people, scientists and others, who disagree. There are also agnostics, who hold no opinion one way or the other on one or another of the above theses. And there are variations on the above themes, and also halfway houses of one sort or another. Still, by and large those are the views of academics and intellectuals in America now. Call this constellation of views scientific naturalism—or don’t call it that, since there is nothing particularly scientific about it, except that those who champion it tend to wrap themselves in science like a politician in the flag. By any name, however, we could call it the orthodoxy of the academy—or if not the orthodoxy, certainly the majority opinion.

The eminent philosopher Thomas Nagel would call it something else: an idol of the academic tribe, perhaps, or a sacred cow: “I find this view antecedently unbelievable—a heroic triumph of ideological theory over common sense. … I would be willing to bet that the present right-thinking consensus will come to seem laughable in a generation or two.” Nagel is an atheist; even so, however, he does not accept the above consensus, which he calls materialist naturalism; far from it. His important new book is a brief but powerful assault on materialist naturalism.

But it was another review of the book, which was also quite favorable to it, that really surprised me. I’ll just give the beginning and closing words from the review in The New Statesman:

Thomas Nagel is widely recognised as one of the most important analytical philosophers of his generation. In both the philosophy of mind and moral philosophy, he has produced pioneering and influential work. This book inherits many of the virtues of that work. It is beautifully lucid, civilised, modest in tone and courageous in its scope…

But I regret the appearance of this book. It will only bring comfort to creationists and fans of “intelligent design”, who will not be too bothered about the difference between their divine architect and Nagel’s natural providence. It will give ammunition to those triumphalist scientists who pronounce that philosophy is best pensioned off. If there were a philosophical Vatican, the book would be a good candidate for going on to the Index.

Yes, the worst sin isn’t even supposing that a prevailing view might be questioned but, rather, giving comfort to creationists. Dunh dunh dunh!

But that’s the media environment we’re in (this is straight up Kellerian philosophy that the New Statesman reviewer Simon Blackburn offered).

I thought of all this when reading the response the mainstream media had to an interview Marco Rubio gave to GQ. In only the second paragraph we get this prophetic bit from reporter Michael Hainey:

Rubio smiles a lot and likes to put people at ease. But he also speaks with the restraint of a guy who knows everything he says will be parsed and, most likely, used against him. “I’ve learned the hard way,” he says. “You have to always be thinking how your actions today will be viewed at a later date.”

You don’t say. I mean, this is obvious. You can’t have had a pulse for the last few years (much less the decades prior to that) and not have noticed that some politicians have to be particularly careful in dealing with the media. There’s a certain freedom that politicians on the left have in dealing with the media that politicians on the right don’t have. When was the last time you heard a pro-choice politician asked why he thought it should be legal to kill an unborn child just because she’s female. Never? That is correct. (Which is just astounding!) When was the last time you heard a pro-life politician asked about exceptions for rape? An hour ago? Probably.

The GQ interview is wide ranging, if by wide ranging you mean questions about Rubio’s favorite Afrika Bambaataa songs, his three favorite rap songs, whether there is a song he plays to psych himself up before a vote in the Senate and whether Pitbull is too cheesy. It’s obviously incredibly fluffy.

Here are two questions asked from the middle of the interview (in order):

GQ: You were obviously very moved by your grandfather’s dignity and your father’s dignity. What are the qualities that would qualify for a man to have dignity?

GQ: How old do you think the Earth is?

What the what?

Rubio gives a fairly standard political answer:

Marco Rubio: I’m not a scientist, man. I can tell you what recorded history says, I can tell you what the Bible says, but I think that’s a dispute amongst theologians and I think it has nothing to do with the gross domestic product or economic growth of the United States. I think the age of the universe has zero to do with how our economy is going to grow. I’m not a scientist. I don’t think I’m qualified to answer a question like that. At the end of the day, I think there are multiple theories out there on how the universe was created and I think this is a country where people should have the opportunity to teach them all. I think parents should be able to teach their kids what their faith says, what science says. Whether the Earth was created in 7 days, or 7 actual eras, I’m not sure we’ll ever be able to answer that. It’s one of the great mysteries.

Oh no he did-unt!

Then a bunch of media outlets all lined up to freak out. This smugtastic Slate piece, which had to run a correction about whether sociology, linguistics, anthropology, and other sciences indicate that the Earth is billions of years old, was definitely my favorite.

I guess my problem with the whole scenario is that I don’t trust the media here. It’s not like we have a media where we see routinely tough questions asked about science as it relates to human life and dignity. You remember all of the outrage over opposition to stem cell research that destroys human embryos, don’t you? The cover stories, the factually inaccurate pieces condemning ethicists as anti-science? I do. Why don’t we see the same deluge of stories about embryonic stem cell research now? Do you have any ideas? Is it because embryonic stem cell research kind of turned out to be a bust whereas stem cell research that doesn’t destroy embryos is going gangbusters?

We don’t have a media that questions all sorts of scientifically questionable thinking so long as it comports with a particular agenda.

Instead we have a group of people who have very unscientific ideas about when human life begins (or, at the very least, never even have the thought of asking that question to politicians who support abortion on demand) act outraged.

You know who was the last “journalist” to ask President Barack Obama when he believes human life begins? It was that Pulitzer Prize winner Rick Warren. Do you remember Obama’s response? At the Telegraph: Tim Stanley has thoughts on this:

More importantly, if it’s okay for Barack Obama to say that abortion is “above my paygrade” and refuse to offer a guess as to when life begins, why is it not okay for Rubio to dodge a bullet when asked a question about the origins of the Earth? Considering that the question posed to Obama back in the 2008 election had serious moral consequences and Rubio’s does not, I can’t understand why Obama’s evasion is heralded as a victory for common sense but Rubio’s is treated like a declaration of war on science. The hysteria and hypocrisy are tiring at best.

I don’t care when the world began and I don’t care if my elected officials know either. I’m far too worried about a stagnating US economy and its spiralling debt. And yet, in these strange and worrying times, how “sciency” someone is seems to have become a litmus test for office – regardless of where they stand on the things that they can actually do something about.

It’s the miserable philosophy of a materialist liberalism gone mad – a systematised worldview that prefers to wallow in inconsequential data rather than explore profound questions about life and death. Note to the mainstream media: abortion is a more important issue than the age of the Earth. It personally affects a lot more people.

The hysteria and hypocrisy are getting to me, too. I find the whole thing ridiculous.

Note: I’m sure we all have our own political, theological and scientific responses to Rubio’s comments. I know I do. But while there are many places on the internet to express those views, this site is reserved for a discussion of media coverage. Please keep comments focused on media coverage, which still gives us a lot of room to have fun.

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