Thursday, April 27, 2006

Don't Hold Your Breath

In 874, the lone great-great-great-great-great grandson of Muhammad disappeared without a trace, thus ending Muhammad's lineage. Today, devout Shiites, who refer to Muhammad's twelve direct male descendants as "imams," still await for this last imam to return and liberate the world from evil things. You know, like music. Or, dogs and monkeys. Or, Israel. "Twelfth imam, we are waiting for you," Iranian posters read.

This is just one story from Matthias Kuntzel's excellent article about the ideological roots of current Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Even for those familiar with Islam ideology (perhaps readers of Bernard Lewis' outstanding books), Matthias Kuntzel's article merits reading. Those unfamiliar with Islam ideology, meanwhile, will likely find the article shocking. In either case, it approaches "must-read" status. For skeptics, consider this excerpt:
In one of his first TV interviews after being elected president, [Ahmadinejad] enthused: "Is there an art that is more beautiful, more divine, more eternal than the art of the martyr's death?" In September 2005, he concluded his first speech before the United Nations by imploring God to bring about the return of the Twelfth Imam. He finances a research institute in Tehran whose sole purpose is to study, and, if possible, accelerate the coming of the imam. And, at a theology conference in November 2005, he stressed, "The most important task of our Revolution is to prepare the way for the return of the Twelfth Imam."

Monday, April 17, 2006

Jane Galt Revisited

Megan McCardle's April 2, 2005 post on gay marriage is such a worthwhile ten minutes of reading that I am not at all hesitant to link to it more than a year later. Perhaps because tonight's dram of rum didn't accompany my original reading last April, the post seems even better this evening. Even if her post were not such a measured and entertaining deliberation of a common argument regarding gay marriage, it would be worth wading through just to find this nugget from G.K. Chesteron's The Thing:

In the matter of reforming things, as distinct from deforming them, there is one plain and simple principle; a principle which will probably be called a paradox. There exists in such a case a certain institution or law; let us say, for the sake of simplicity, a fence or gate erected across a road. The more modern type of reformer goes gaily up to it and says, "I don't see the use of this; let us clear it away." To which the more intelligent type of reformer will do well to answer: "If you don't see the use of it, I certainly won't let you clear it away. Go away and think. Then, when you can come back and tell me that you do see the use of it, I may allow you to destroy it."

This paradox rests on the most elementary common sense. The gate or fence did not grow there. It was not set up by somnambulists who built it in their sleep. It is highly improbable that it was put there by escaped lunatics who were for some reason loose in the street. Some person had some reason for thinking it would be a good thing for somebody. And until we know what the reason was, we really cannot judge whether the reason was reasonable. It is extremely probable that we have overlooked some whole aspect of the question, if something set up by human beings like ourselves seems to be entirely meaningless and mysterious. There are reformers who get over this difficulty by assuming that all their fathers were fools; but if that be so, we can only say that folly appears to be a hereditary disease. But the truth is that nobody has any business to destroy a social institution until he has really seen it as an historical institution. If he knows how it arose, and what purposes it was supposed to serve, he may really be able to say that they were bad purposes, that they have since become bad purposes, or that they are purposes which are no longer served. But if he simply stares at the thing as a senseless monstrosity that has somehow sprung up in his path, it is he and not the traditionalist who is suffering from an
illusion.

"Junk Science"

Sometimes "junk science" really is junk science. More often, Roger Pielke argues, "junk science" is just a label used to dismiss politics or policies with which one disagrees.

Reason Number 1,023,456,023 that the U.S. is Better than Iran

Midget Kiss-Tribute Bands

United States 2

Iran 0