Sunday, April 30, 2006

South Dakota and the total awesomeness of Cecelia Fire Thunder

Whoever said one person can’t make an impact in the debate over abortion has obviously never met Cecilia Fire Thunder.
Fire Thunder, president of the Oglala Sioux tribe, has announced her intention to establish a Planned Parenthood clinic on the tribe’s Pine Ridge reservation. Although Pine Ridge is located within the state of South Dakota, it is not subject to South Dakotan law, including the state’s recently passed and highly controversial abortion ban. The law’s full title is HB 1215- the “Women’s Health and Human Life Protection Act”. The blanket ban on abortion is clearly intended to challenge Roe v. Wade, without concern for the possible effects on the wellbeing of South Dakotan women. It is a direct challenge to established federal legal precedent, and, sadly, this challenge may succeed.
It is well-known that provisions for rape and incest are absent from this ban. However, I was astonished to learn that an attempt to add provisions for rape and incest into the bill was shot down with a vote of 21-14. This is certainly consistent with the position that all life is sacred, but I could not call it anything less than cruelty. Rape and incest are crimes, yet the forced bearing of a child brings lifelong economic and social discrimination against the mother, the mother’s family, and the child. The scale of the effect of this forced childbirth is much greater than the impact of the emprisonment of the criminal. The maximum sentence for rape is life, yet the consequence of this rape, forced upon the victim, affects many more lives than that of one deviant.
In reading the text of South Dakota HB 1215, I noted a particularly apt clause-

“Section 11. If any court of law finds any provision of this Act to be unconstitutional, the other provisions of this Act are severable. If any court of law finds the provisions of this Act to be entirely or substantially unconstitutional, the provisions of § § 34-23A-2, 34-23A-3, 34-23A- 4, and 34-23A-5, as of June 30, 2006, are immediately reeffective.”

Apparently, the legislators fully expect this bill to be challenged, and these challenges are already rising. Some have called for illegal abortion networks to be established. Planned Parenthood has filed a lawsuit against the bill. The real question is, if the challenge makes it to the Supreme Court, which way will the justices decide? If they decide it is unconstitutional, a heavy blow will be dealt to the anti-abortion movement. However, if they uphold the law, the question of abortion will be thrown back to the states, where it is likely to be banned in states ranging from Mississippi to Michigan.
It is equally disturbing that South Dakota has bills active in their legislature that would outlaw comprehensive sexual education and allow for the so-called “conscience clause”, protecting the ability of a pharmacist to refuse to fill a prescription for ethical or religious reasons- in other words, a way to deny birth control medications, including the “Pill” (a combination of oestrogen and progestrogen). Although the main purpose of the “Pill” is to prevent pregnancy, it is also used to treat irregular and heavy menstrual cycles, as well as to help regulate menstrual migraines. This total illogic is a threat to women’s health beyond birth control, and is nothing short of an attack on women’s availability to even slightly controversial healthcare.
Outrage from pro-choice and cheers from anti-abortion groups have clogged the Internet since the day the bill was proposed, but Fire Thunder’s proposal is unique amongst the recent furor in that it has substance. She is collecting donations from across the country to establish a comprehensive family clinic on tribal land. By taking serious action, she has set a precedent for courageous opposition to the movement against reproductive health in America, and made a real motion to improve health within the Pine Ridge reservation, as well as within the greater South Dakota area.
It is important to remember that the fight over abortion in South Dakota has the ability to affect reproductive health across the nation. If South Dakota’s policies spread, we could find an epidemic of denied prescriptions, failed sex education, unwanted children, and deaths due to illegal, unsafe abortions. This is a threat to America’s health, physical, psychological, and social, and I can only find comfort in the actions of the brave men and women speaking out against this irrational and unreasonable law.

Monday, March 06, 2006

Intelligent Design Deserves A Chance

(On the suggestion of my dear friend Kolly, this carries a SATIRE ALERT. If you didn't notice already.)

Few respectable scientists give the theory of intelligent design any serious consideration. There seems to be no reason for this aversion to a perfectly respectable theory. Why is there such objection to it?

Evolution has always been controversial, while almost every culture has a tradition of an intelligent designer. Surely all of these cultures can’t be wrong! If they were, it would imply that new information can explain better than years of tradition. Relying solely on facts for explanation of natural phenomena produces a purely logical worldview that has no bearing on culture or tradition, which could not possibly benefit the impartial, global community of scientists.

It is also disturbing that evolution connects the obviously superior human race to the lesser animal species, such as monkeys, dolphins, and birds. How else, besides being created to rule the Earth, can we justify overusing natural resources and causing irreparable damage to ecosystems? Intelligent design affirms our rightful place as the dominant species on this planet, since we couldn’t possibly be on the same level as the lower life forms.

The scientific arguments behind evolution are also weak. Surely there’s no possible way to explain the evolution of something as complex as an eye though evolution. Even though Richard Dawkins seems to devote a chapter in every one of his books to how the evolution of the eye has been proven to be possible through extremely small random changes to a basic photocell, and there are endless variations on the eye throughout the animal kingdom, this is by no means proof that there isn’t an intelligent designer. Evolution could explain this, but it is also possible that the intelligent designer decided to create all the variations on the eye.

The fact that there is a great amount of proof for the Darwinian theory of evolution does not make it entirely impossible for intelligent design to be the truth behind life on Earth. It can be likened to the fact that, although classical physics reigned for centuries, Einstein’s theory of relativity turned out to be the true theory behind motion and gravity. Even though intelligent design makes no predictions that evolution does not, there’s no reason to place the burden of proof on the “new theory” of intelligent design. Intelligent design has been around since the days of Plato and Aristotle. The fact that Greek philosophy was based on pure logical thought and held the empiricism modern science is based on in contempt doesn’t change that this one theory has a chance of being true and needs to be taught on an equal level with scientific theories.

After all, science education brainwashes captive students into believing that all life on Earth evolved from single-celled organisms, that the universe formed over a period of billions of years in a cosmic “Big Bang”, and other such objective theories. Children have the right to choose whether they believe these strongly empirically supported theories, and offering the unsupportable yet unchallengeable theory of intelligent design is the only way to ensure that the facts of science don’t interfere with people’s beliefs. After all, the right of people to believe what they desire regarding evolution is unalienable and must be defended in all circumstances, and their unproved convictions must be scientifically accepted, just as Holocaust denial is among World War II historians.

Obviously, we must fight to perpetuate this philosophy in science classrooms. By shifting the burden of proof to the oft-challenged Darwinian theory of evolution, it is possible to insert this theory into the classrooms of America and perpetuate what others call delusion, but is a truly viable method of challenging evolution.

Monday, February 06, 2006

State of Hypocrisy: My first professional rant.

Last Tuesday’s State of the Union address revealed President Bush’s idea’s for the course of the nation in this pivotal election year. His overall agenda had a few surprises- namely the intense focus on developing renewable energy and the passing mention of abortion and marriage. However, the main issue revealed, both by the address and the audience, was the deep and poisonous partisanship in modern American politics.

I have to admit that the behavior of the Democratic faction was less than admirable. For the vast majority of the speech, they withheld applause with remarkable consistency. This could normally be forgiven as an exceptional difference of opinion, but the sarcastic applause at the failure of Bush’s Social Security plan was in poor taste, even rude. These reactions only present the Democrats as the instigators of the partisanship in government.

However, Bush’s speech did little to earn the bipartisan attitude he was seeking. Throughout the speech, he referenced the World War II era, comparing our current Gulf War II to World War II, setting up parallels between his administration and that of Roosevelt, and between the invasion of Iraq and the liberation of Nazi concentration camps. He spent more time implying that those who speak against the war in Iraq are defeatist isolationists than presenting a concrete foreign policy for the coming year, saying that there is “no peace in retreat, no honor in retreat”, and that “hindsight is not wisdom, and second-guessing is not strategy”. Apparently his foreign policy consists of framing his opponents as being opposed to the war in Iraq as well as humanitarian programs abroad, including action against malaria, HIV/AIDS, human trafficking, and genocide. By connecting the desire to end the war in Iraq with the fictional desire to completely withdraw from the world, he effectively demonized his opposition, even as he called for bipartisan action.

It is certain that the leverage afforded by Republican control of Congress allowed Bush to craft his policy with little interference from the Democratic Party. Now, with his approval ratings slipping as low as 39%, he is attempting to blame the partisan split in Washington on his opposition while ignoring the simple fact that respect is earned, not magically manifested out of thin air. In the same breath, he called for cooperation between the parties and attacked his opposition. If he expects to be able to receive the aid of Democrats in Congress as he poisons the well by portraying his critics as cowardly isolationists, he is greatly mistaken.

If there is to be partisan reconciliation in this anxious era, both the Republicans and Democrats must come with open minds and the political will to cooperate and thus improve the country. The Democrats cannot expect to gain support if they behave immaturely, and the Republicans cannot expect to gain Democratic cooperation if they do not make a good-faith effort to appreciate their contribution to the government of our nation. Cooperation, by definition, cannot come purely on the terms of one party. The partisan bickering present in our government impedes the process of governing. We, as taxpayers, pay our leaders to govern, not to fight among themselves, and we have the right to expect maturity from our government.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Welcome to Intelligentsia Jr.!

I'm 16, a physics/math major at a small liberal arts college in a small city in Michigan that's getting a lot of press time lately. I'm always thinking about just about everything, and often like to write them out in coherent sentences for the world to see. I am applying for a staff writer position as the "liberal" columnist for the school newspaper. I thoroughly plan to write about what just makes sense, not what the Democrats want me to write.

I want to keep this anonymous to an extent, although my friends over at Love Is Not An Orgasm might just be able to trace me back and get something out of me... but to the rest of the world, this is all you get. All the people here at college will never be referred to by name... I shall either come up with witty titles, or identify them otherwise. You'll pick it up quickly. At least I hope.