Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Interesting Stuff on the Web Today:

First, James Q. Wilson on ID. Bottom line:

The other meaning of theory is the popular and not the scientific one. People use "theory" when they mean a guess, a faith or an idea. A theory in this sense does not state a testable relationship between two or more things. It is a belief that may be true, but its truth cannot be tested by scientific inquiry. One such theory is that God exists and intervenes in human life in ways that affect the outcome of human life. God may well exist, and He may well help people overcome problems or even (if we believe certain athletes) determine the outcome of a game. But that theory cannot be tested. There is no way anyone has found that we can prove empirically that God exists or that His action has affected some human life. If such a test could be found, the scientist who executed it would overnight become a hero.

John Stossel on the counterintuitive Truth that things are actually getting better, not worse:

"Life getting worse" is myth No.1 because in TV newsrooms, I hear a constant whine about life getting worse: avian flu will kill us if terrorism doesn't get us first; crime and pollution keep increasing, and the poor are suffering. But in truth, life keeps getting better. We live longer than ever, and with less pain (think about dental care in the 1960s). Crime is down. In America, even poor people have homes, cars, and access to music and other entertainment that was once only available to royalty. Pollution? The air and water keep getting cleaner. I jumped in the Hudson River not long ago to illustrate the point. There I was, swimming away and looking up at the Empire State building. Despite eight million people flushing nearby, the health department says swimming in the Hudson is now perfectly safe.

Despite all the complaints from the media, life keeps getting better. Let's complain less and enjoy 2006.

Finally, Kathryn Jean Lopez interviews Stanley Weintraub on George Washington & Christmas:

Lopez: "His Christmases [were] more hearty than solemn," you write. What did Christmas mean to Washington?

Weintraub: Christmas to most Virginia planters meant fox hunting, feasts of meat pies, guns shot into the air, Yule logs that meant freedom from work by servants (and slaves) as long as they burned, and festive drinking and conviviality, and "Christmas boxes" — usually a coin or two — for the servants, given on "Boxing Day," the day after Christmas. Not much churchgoing. Churches were often too far away by horseback and wagon for a family. Washington's church at Powhick was attended mostly by Martha. He invoked the Deity on occasion in speeches but he was not profoundly religious in the sense of prayer and church attendance. Our traditional Christmases, with Christmas trees, were still decades away.

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