Aug. 25, 2006
Aug. 28, 2006

Aug. 26-27, 2006, weekend


An example of why the Republicans may be in trouble religiously occurred over the weekend. Click here for the story and see how it fits into the next item.


Did you see the story about the poll showing a slippage in the percentage of people who think the Republican Party is a friend of religion? As I write this Friday, I've just come from a luncheon with an Islamic imam in Dearborn, Mich. He suggested to me that the support of Muslims for President Bush has fallen dramatically in the last six years, and it will be very hard work for a Republican in 2008 to capture anything like a majority of the growing American Muslim vote.

* * *


The stem cell news earlier this week seemed promising. Scientists say they have found a way to extract early, or embryonic, stem cells from a blastocyst, or pre-implanted embryo, without destroying the blastocyst.

Stem_2I mentioned this here on the blog on Thursday. And I suggested that we be cautious about imagining all of the moral questions now are solved.

Well, it will take some time to see whether this news really is as promising as it first appears. But even if it is, my caution about the ethical and moral issues raised by stem cell research is warranted. In fact, almost immediately opponents of expanded stem cell research said the new procedure doesn't change anything. In addition, concerns were raised about the safety and effectiveness of the procedure.

I'm in favor of stem cell research, including well-regulated research using early stem cells created by somatic cell nuclear transfer or drawn from unwanted frozen, pre-implanted embryos from invitro fertilization clinics. But I recognize that even if the only kind of stem cell research allowed in the whole world is that done with adult stem cells -- which don't carry with them the controversial issues of origin -- there still are ethical problems to solve.

One, for instance, is who gets access to the treatments that might result from stem cell research. Already in the United States we have more than 40 million people who don't even have basic health insurance. Will they be treated with expensive stem cell therapy on an equal footing with people who are fully covered by private insurance? And, if not, what does that say about how we value human beings? Indeed, what does our current health care system say about that?

In his book The Political Meaning of Christianity, author and teacher Glenn Tinder says the "spiritual center of Western politics" is the notion that every single person is of inestimable value -- is "exalted," to use his phrase.

Tinder worries that we are losing our sense of that. I share his concern.

And, as I say, even if what seems like good stem cell news this past week turns out to be exactly that, there is much more we'll have to wrestle with as a culture and a nation to make sure that on the path ahead we don't violate our basic values of human dignity.

By the way, in April 2005 I helped produce for the Faith section of The Kansas City Star a full-page discussion of the ethical red flags that get raised in the stem cell debate. I have that page as a pdf file that I'd be happy to share with you. Just e-mail me at [email protected] and ask for it and I'll send it out to you, though because of other commitments this weekend it may take me until next week to do that.

To read my latest Kansas City Star work, click here. (My Saturday column this week is about choosing a rabbi to be the narrator of a piece of classical Christian music.)



I haven't voted republican in years because I'm sick in tired of religious factions trying to take over this country. If anything it's made me despise religion. All these so called "christians" are whining about how "persecuted" they are just because they can't force the bible on every single living being, yet it's those of us who don't practice christiamity (or at least don't fake it as most of these alleged "christians" are) are the ones being bullied & made to feel like second-class citizens.

How about we just take religion back to the personal level it was meant to be, and use it as a tool for guiding our personal lives rather than one for trying to dictate the masses? Because I'm pretty sure even God himself is fed up with all this "I'm more pious than you" garbage.

Just Thinking

Okay, an individual level works in this case.

Suppose your plane crashes and everyone is stranded without food. Do you want people around who believe your life is sacred and act accordingly or do you want people around who disrespect others like yourself? Nice email address.


I did not ignore your post on the double slit theory, JR. I just don't believe that I have enough information to judge the page that you sent the link to.

Here is one trained scientist's response to it:

"Unfortunately, by Aether Wave theory interpretation the double slit experiment and quantum wave collapse has nothing to do with consciousness or similar transcendence. It's a tediously simple result of mechanical waves composition in multidimensional inertial environment, which is quite common in systems containing phase interfaces, like foam."

If you are asking me to judge between the page that you sent and responses like the one above, the best that I could do would be to spend the next six months reading up on the subject and asking many experts questions. Even then, I don't know how competent I would be to make an intelligent decision.

We are back to something that concerns me. And that is non-scientists(or people who haven't delved deeply into the framework) taking chunks or sound-bytes of extraordinarily complex science and adapting it to their needs.

I asked someone a week ago about why he felt competent to do this. He responded that he has been encouraged by his church to form his own opinions on science. "After all," he said, "Einstein was only a patent clerk."

We happened to have an oppositional dialogue on global warming going. When he presented me his "research", it turned out to be two stories from "Newsmax". This is a news source that, in my opinion, completely lacks credibility. Indeed, when I went looking for the scientific sources of the Newsmax stories, Newsmax had taken bits and pieces and distorted them.

The fact that anyone would compare this level of research to the work done by a fully trained mathematician and scientist like Einstein, really floored me.

Now. I AM NOT SUGGESTING that your link is on par with the Newsmax stories, JT. And you are a bright man, much brighter than my previous dialogue-mate.

I am suggesting that you perform a LOT of study from many different sources before you write off mainstream science theories in favor of those that hold little or no standing in the field.


re: Religion trouble for the GOP

I think many of the folks who voted the religious right line are growing disenchanted and cynical with the Republican promises of a socially conservative agenda. Despite a GOP-controlled legislative and executive branch (and, given two recent Bush appointees to the Supreme Court), arguably the judicial branch as well, the Republicans have failed to make good on some of the wink-and-nod promises they made to the religious right.

Abortion is still the law of the land. Attempts to pass the marriage protection act failed miserably. Ditto the flag burning amendment. In short, so many of the promises made to the religious right have failed to materialize that they are growing cynical with the political process and are beginning to wonder if their issues were just an enticement to get them to turn out at the polls.

Because so many at that end of the political spectrum see the world in black/white, right/wrong, good/evil terms, they tend to be naive about how government operates and the compromises necessary to keep the wheels of government turning.

I think many will continue to turn out at the polls for the GOP, but others will simply stay at home on election day out of sheer frustration and a sense of betrayal. The question is: Will enough stay away to splinter the bloc that has been voting Republican in the last few national elections?

Just Thinking

I asked originally that when you read about the experiment to ignore the theory. It's just an experiment with results you can easily understand. You shoot a particle in and it comes out somewhere. Where it comes out is the question. This is direct observation, and nobody is asking you to assess the mathematics or physics of the situation. The theory only serves to obscure the reality which is this: the individual outcomes are not repeatable. Individual outcomes do not depend on what we can measure or control.

The "trained" expert you cite is, however, telling this that this happens all over the place. It's not some quirky or special case or excessively complex, and that's an important point.

Since you mentioned global warming, here is an article about the flawed mathematics that went into the making of a very famous graph concerning temperatures:
The results were cited in many places, and yet the discovery of flawed methods for analyzing the data to come up with the graph has largely been ignored.


No, JT. What the trained scientist is saying is that the double slit theory has nothing to do with consciousness or transcendence and that it essentially follows laws of science. Your link relates the experiment to the position that it is proff of consciousness or transcendence. Big difference. Oppositional views.

Thank you for the link, when next I have time to look at it and research various opinions on the subject, I will do so.

Pseudo-science, JT. If you are going to embrace it, at least don't embrace it as what it is.

Just Thinking

The double slit experiment is not theory; it is an experiment. I didn't use words like consciousness or transcendence. I used words like non-deterministic, not predictable, etc. There is no science to predict that single experiment, only probabilistic analysis after performing the experiment millions of times. But don't worry about it.

Just Thinking

Patricia, I'll further simplify:

No quantum physicist will deny these things.

Definition of my experiment: you shoot ONE particle at the double slit apparatus and observe where it emerges. (You are not allowed to redefine the experiment for this discussion.)

Observation and theory: The outcome of the experiment is not repeatable, even to within experimental error. Therefore we cannot predict the outcome of this experiment within some reasonable error.

Rephrase: The outcome of this experiment is not determined just by what we can measure or control.


Hey Bill, what's up with that nice color picture of Phil Kline on page F12 in the religious section in yesterdays Star (Sat)? He's listed under the "Relegious Speakers" column as speaking at some Christian professionals meeting the 30th of August. Nice campaign photo, with old glory waving in the backdrop, while none of the other listed speakers even had a photo-color or otherwise. And then this Christian professionals group didn't even list where one could go to hear his speech, just a phone number. Guess they need to screen you for your "professionalism", or maybe to make sure no Jews or Muslims or Democrats try to come?
But again, nice pic of your candidate there, Star.


OK, JT, let me see if I can simply further for you.

Taking an experiment out of the context of the rest of the body of scientific thought and the scientific method, makes it just an experiment that can't really prove much of anything. It's not a lot different than a magic trick.

I have some vinegar and baking soda and can make my kids one heck of a volcano.

Taking any one thought out of the context of the body of scientific work works contrary to scientific study and methods.

You present no scientific method, including a sound hypothesis and conclusions, and no solid reference to the greater body of thought, no credentials of your own nor indication from the level of your knowledge of science that you have any, and faulty logic.

If you again read the analysis by the trained scientist, it is his opinion that the experiment, when taken into the context of existing research performs well within scientific law, and cannot be used to support a theory of a higher being/conscientiousness/transcendence.

If this is an example of what you meant when you wrote that instead of teaching grand theories like evolution, we should teach important experiments (from a cursory look around the net, apparently this experiment is a favorite to "prove" God), then I will begin praying that this is not the next wave of ignorance to attack education and genuine knowledge in the schools.

Just Thinking


So apparently you or your friend think there is a function that describes the final position of an electron passing through the double slit apparatus, a function that depends only on measurable quantities. I know people who would love to see such a result published--trust me, that would change your friend's career.

SC in KC

Regarding Katherine Harris comments...

Rep. Harris did something that no savvy politician makes a habit of...she told the truth. She actually said what was on her mind, and I bet she actually meant it.

The fact that her truth-telling is discomforting should, I think, make us want to contemplate our own views of where our faith (if any) belongs. I know that many think that faith should be relegated to personal moral decisions, and that we should all be secular humanists when it comes to making public policy. Is that really what we should be doing?

I have made no secret of my belief that a Christian should be in possession of, and live according to, a Christian world view. That world view should permeate every decision we make every day of our lives. If we are truly living witnesses to Christ, people should be able to see Christ in us. When folks look at us, they should immediately equate us with Christ.

If they don't know Christ, people should immediately know that there is something so different about us that we stand apart. When asked what this quality is, we should be able to tell the inquirers that what they noticed is Christ in us.

Muslims, by and large, do a fantastic job of "living" Islam. Buddhists, Hindus, and Jews do a good job as well. Christians, for some reason, don't do as well as I would like, and are usually socially castigated when they do. I have to wonder why.

Just Thinking

Science is the study of what is repeatable. It's a common mistake for people to assume this means that everything, therefore, must be repeatable. It isn't.

We live in a world where we have simple experiments where no matter how precisely you set them up, the outcomes change on you. It's even stranger that our current theories predict that this will happen! And these are not parlor tricks, but rather fundamental to our understanding of the world: one of the greatest physicists of the last century, Richard Feynman, said, "Any other situation in quantum mechanics, it turns out, can always be explained by saying, "You remember the case of the experiment with the two holes? It's the same thing.""

We are forced to simply accept that we live in a world where things happen all around us whose outcomes are not repeatable. Only an illogical thinker would conclude from this that we have "proved" the existence of God, or would think that I ever claimed that we "proved" such. What it does mean is that we are forced live with events that happen which do not depend on just measurable quantities.

It's hard to explain these things without evoking emotional responses and baking soda and vinegar reactions, but that should be the job of modern educational system. Atheists object because they don't like leaving room for these possibilities, and they often mistakenly believe that science has systematically excluded God. Einstein reacted quite oppositely and emotionally when he first encountered all of this: he thought that it meant God played dice with the universe. We need to educate people so that they understand these simple fundamentals and do not react emotionally when asked to consider physical experiments.

Experiments are a good way to teach scientific truth, and they lead us to think critically. Teaching theories without experiment only encourages wild speculation and undisciplined thinking, unconstrained by physical reality or by fear of verification. People can even start to get confused about the difference between physical reality and scientific theory, to the point where they start thinking experiments are less real than theory.


"Muslims, by and large, do a fantastic job of "living" Islam. Buddhists, Hindus, and Jews do a good job as well."

Huh? If going on jihad and killing infidels is doing a fantastic job of living Islam, then I guess you're right. I've also read that many, many Jews today are not religious, so I'm not sure they're doing such a good job, either.


Hi Ron,

Have you met a Muslim before? Well, you have now. My name is Michelle. Yes I am American but I am also a muslim. I am married to an Egyptian muslim who has been Muslim all his life. I found your comments quite humurous to say the least. What makes you think that Muslims like to go on jihad and kill the infidels? Do you know what jihad is? Do you know who the infidels were? Yes were? You know I understand when someone reads something the like to take one part and run with it. But I have to ask why do you think that? Please keep in mind that knowledge is unending and there is always ways to find out more about something then on discrimatory belief. Islam is a religion that has many facets. There are those that take one part of the Qur'an like you just mention and take it to literally mean that we are supposed to kill all the infidels and such. But if you understand the context of what was written you would know that it was talking about a people for a specific time period that were terrorizing the Muslim believers of that time. After exercising much patience it came time for war. But don't worry you are not the only one to get that confused. Radicals Muslims get that to..

In fairness, we all don't always follow according to what we believe. But the importance is to strive and to live to the best we can be. We are not God we are human flaws and all.

Take care


Sorry I reread my post. I hope I didn't come across very negatively. I just want to dispell the misconceptions of the religion of Islam. But I want to do it without offending anyone. I am sorry if it came across as a personal attack please accept my apologies.


Just Thinking


I can't tell you how nice it is to hear your interpretation. Thank you for participating here so that people like me can hear about Muslim beliefs.


You have no need to apologize, Michelle. Thank you for your thoughts.

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