06 Apr 2016

“Is This Thing On?”

Humor, Religious 37 Comments

This old post still gets some constructive feedback. Check out 5 of the last 6 comments. These guys actually think I was waiting for Hitchens to die, as if he would care what some economist put on a blog.

This is the same attitude that makes Bill Nye say, “!@?#?@#? I can only conclude that Christians don’t think astronomical observations are scientific.”

05 Apr 2016

Murphy Triple Play

Shameless Self-Promotion 23 Comments

==> My latest article on IER discusses leakage. It’s a sensitive topic but ignoring our problems is no solution.

==> Tom Woods and I discuss globalization on Contra Krugman.

==> Carlos and I talk about BOLI (bank-owned life insurance) on the Lara-Murphy Show.

03 Apr 2016

Bill Nye, the Strawman Guy

Evolution, Religious 98 Comments

I was in the bookstore recently and couldn’t resist browsing Bill Nye’s book Undeniable: Evolution and the Science of Creation. (I note, mostly for laughs, that his title is itself incorrect: His whole book is about a bunch of people who deny evolution.)

Here’s a photo I took from the beginning. In just these two pages, it was astonishing how badly he mangled his opponents’ positions (click the photo to flip it, I don’t know why it’s upside down in the thumbnail):

Bill Nye

Now before I mention some of the problems here, let me give a disclaimer: Guys, I used to be a hardcore atheist in college. I read a lot on evolutionary biology, and even read their critiques of creationism. I thought those critiques were awesome. Even after I had recovered my belief in God (in grad school), I still thought those arguments for the standard modern view of evolution were great. It was only after I re-read them, as a theist, that I saw all of the problems in them. If you are an atheist, it simply must be the case (in your mind) that intelligent life arose from inorganic molecules without any plan. And so, even if there are serious problems with any particular attempt to explain what happened in this way, you will not really feel the power of the critique, because you know the real story has to be something like that.

Another disclaimer: I am not a “young Earth creationist.” Two of the people I consider quite authoritative on the Bible–and who believe it literally–don’t think it establishes that the Earth is only 6,000 years old.

Another disclaimer: I am not threatened by the hypothesis that all life on Earth originated from a single cell. What I do claim is that if that did happen, then that original cell had a lot of very useful information tucked into it, that cannot be explained by standard “mindless” Darwinian mechanisms. This is what Michael Behe (one of the leaders in the Intelligent Design movement) thinks, I believe, and it also is a loose link to the stuff Gene Callahan has been writing regarding the Turing Test. (I don’t know if Gene would endorse my linking of these two topics.)

Annnnnyway, back to the Bill Nye excerpt above:

1) He is flatly wrong when he says that creationists say evolution isn’t happening today. That’s actually one of the first opening moves a creationist will make in these debates, is to admit that of course you can see populations adapting to environmental changes, but calling this microevolution and contrasting it with macroevolution. You can dismiss the distinction as spurious if you want, but it’s amazing that Nye misrepresents his opponents at Step #1.

2) It’s odd that Nye first says creationists don’t like curiosity or common sense, and then talks about a guy who built a whole museum catering to creationists. An odd way to stifle their curiosity, isn’t it? Why, it’s almost as if he’s trying to provide answers to their questions. Ham should create an organization along those lines…

3) Does Nye really not see the distinction between observations we can make today, versus speculations about things that happened in the past? Do you guys–even those of you who hate Bible-thumpers–believe me when I tell you that of course Ken Ham thinks astronomical observations are useful in science?

4) I realize agnostic believers in the standard, modern Darwinian synthesis might think it’s pointless for me to criticize a science popularizer. I grant that I’m not in this post doing anything about the deep questions in these fields. Rather, my modest purpose is to show just how AWFUL much of the “establishment” restatement of evolution is, when they try to reassure the masses that those wacky Christians have nothing useful to say. Nye can’t even state their position. I’m not upset with him; I think he is so sure these guys are blubbering morons/liars that it doesn’t occur to him to actually try to understand what they mean.

31 Mar 2016


Potpourri 48 Comments

==> Doug French has a somber article that incidentally mentions his battle with cancer.

==> Wow! Listen to Roger Stone talk with Lew Rockwell about the Bush family.

==> This Autor et al. paper has been getting a lot of attention. It apparently shows that US trade with China was bad for the US. I searched the paper and the word “consumer” appears exactly once, in the abstract, when the authors explain that the conventional argument for free trade says consumers benefit. I’m not saying the authors themselves say anything wrong, but if someone says, “Trade with China was bad for lots of Americans…” (someone like this guy, for example) and relies on this paper, well, you need more than that. The paper doesn’t even attempt to compare benefits to consumers with losses to (some) workers.

==> Ed Feser is a very thoughtful guy, so I look forward to reading his critique of libertarianism (haven’t yet).

29 Mar 2016

Pay Tax Now or Later?

Lara-Murphy Show, Shameless Self-Promotion 2 Comments

In this podcast and this blog post, Carlos and I help our audience to think through the ramifications of popular savings vehicles that allow a person to affect the timing of paying income tax.

28 Mar 2016

Callahan Avoids the Rhetorical Traps Laid By His Interlocuters

Humor 76 Comments

In this post, Gene complains about the vacuity of the Turing Test. In the comments, three humans unanimously report that based on analysis of what Gene typed on his keyboard, they do not believe that he understands the Turing Test.

Gene, being a good Irishman, immediately perceived the danger to his position in the argument. If he took his readers’ reports to heart and thought maybe he was being unfair, then that itself would reinforce the spirit of the Turing Test, defeating the purpose of Gene’s post.

Thus Gene declared that his commenters were idiots who obviously didn’t understand the Turing Test like he did.

28 Mar 2016

Murphy Twin Spin

Climate Change, Contra Krugman, Shameless Self-Promotion 5 Comments

==> In the latest Contra Krugman where we were supposed to discuss income mobility, Tom goes rogue and starts complaining about public–I mean government–schools. I almost told the producer to cut to a commercial break, I was so taken aback.

==> At IER I discuss Oren Cass’ cool article that goes off on the new climate change central planners.

27 Mar 2016

The Lesser of Two Evils Is Still an Evil

Religious 7 Comments

Happy Easter everyone! He is risen indeed.

No, this isn’t a post about the election. It’s broader than that.

In our Bible study session this week we covered the horrible and amazing tale of Joseph, whose brothers sold him into slavery in Egypt but in so doing provided for their own salvation. (Note the similarity to Jesus.) Here is Genesis 37: 17-30:

So Joseph went after his brothers and found them near Dothan. 18 But they saw him in the distance, and before he reached them, they plotted to kill him.

19 “Here comes that dreamer!” they said to each other. 20 “Come now, let’s kill him and throw him into one of these cisterns and say that a ferocious animal devoured him. Then we’ll see what comes of his dreams.”

21 When Reuben heard this, he tried to rescue him from their hands. “Let’s not take his life,” he said. 22 “Don’t shed any blood. Throw him into this cistern here in the wilderness, but don’t lay a hand on him.” Reuben said this to rescue him from them and take him back to his father.

23 So when Joseph came to his brothers, they stripped him of his robe—the ornate robe he was wearing— 24 and they took him and threw him into the cistern. The cistern was empty; there was no water in it.

25 As they sat down to eat their meal, they looked up and saw a caravan of Ishmaelites coming from Gilead. Their camels were loaded with spices, balm and myrrh, and they were on their way to take them down to Egypt.

26 Judah said to his brothers, “What will we gain if we kill our brother and cover up his blood? 27 Come, let’s sell him to the Ishmaelites and not lay our hands on him; after all, he is our brother, our own flesh and blood.” His brothers agreed.

28 So when the Midianite merchants came by, his brothers pulled Joseph up out of the cistern and sold him for twenty shekels[b] of silver to the Ishmaelites, who took him to Egypt.

29 When Reuben returned to the cistern and saw that Joseph was not there, he tore his clothes. 30 He went back to his brothers and said, “The boy isn’t there! Where can I turn now?”

Now at this point it seems that Reuben should be given a pass, and yet, he went along with lying to Jacob (their father) later on. Furthermore, if they had come clean, wouldn’t Jacob have justifiably said to Reuben, “You did WHAT?! You thought you were saving Joseph by telling them to cast him into a cistern?! Why didn’t you flip out, warn Joseph to run, and tell your evil brothers you would die fighting them?!”

An even more interesting case is Judah. He is implementing the equivalent of revenue-neutral tax reform. (And I’ve written up a policy study like that; I’m not judging here.) He is saying, “*Given* that you guys are going to kill him, I have a tweak that is more advantageous. You still get the result you want, and it reduces the moral affront.”

We can imagine Judah too explaining to Jacob that it was a good thing he (Judah) was there, lest Joseph would surely be dead. But yet again, I don’t think Jacob would have been pleased with such an answer.

The callousness of Joseph’s brothers is amazing. While he is still alive in the cistern and presumably within earshot, they sit down to eat. Then one of them points out that killing their own brother would be a faux pas, and recommends instead selling him into slavery.

I think the above story is a good metaphor for what happens in Washington DC (obviously), but more generally with evil in the world. I think most people who commit monstrous acts are probably believing themselves to be averting greater evil that those really bad people are intent on doing.

And yet, as clever and efficient as we think we have been, when we see our Father later He is going to say, “You did WHAT?!”

P.S. As we studied this text, we reflected on the fact that these brothers are the 12 tribes of Israel. (Some complications with Joseph, later on.) These are God’s chosen people. This is what He has to work with.