Discovery News

Book Review: “Politicians” By Bruce Chapman

There may be one or two Americans left in the country who don’t know that we are currently living in an anti-Establishment, anti-professional, anti-politician era. Nationally we have voted someone into the Presidency whose primary claim to high office is that he has never held office. (In my own state, we have had a smaller version of the exact same phenomenon.) In virtually every Congressional and state-level campaign beyond the Presidential elections, we have candidates (including incumbents) engaged in an ever-escalating rhetorical battle to claim the low ground of experience. In Politicians: The Worst Kind of People to Run the Government, Except for all the Others, Bruce K. Chapman argues that this disdain for long-serving public servants has to stop. Keep reading.


The Return of the God Hypothesis

Historian of science Frederic Burnham has stated that the God hypothesis is now a more respectable hypothesis than at any time in the last one hundred years. This essay explores recent evidence from cosmology, physics, and biology, which provides epistemological support, though not proof, for belief in God as conceived by a theistic worldview. It develops a notion of epistemological support based upon explanatory power, rather than just deductive entailment. It also evaluates the explanatory power of theism and its main metaphysical competitors with respect to several classes of scientific evidence. The conclusion follows that theism explains a wide ensemble of metaphysically-significant evidences more adequately and comprehensively than other major worldviews or metaphysical systems. Thus, unlike much recent scholarship that Read More ›


Thanksgiving: The First and Essential American Holiday

Many Americans — Christian, Jewish and secular — find Thanksgiving to be their favorite holiday of the year. And for good reason beyond the joy of a feast. Thanksgiving was the first holiday of the Pilgrim forefathers, who spoke of their voyage to the New World in terms of a flight from persecution to freedom, much like the Israelites’ exodus from Egypt to reach the Promised Land.

Thanksgiving is the holiday that made the other American holidays possible. Without the Pilgrims having courage, a quest for adventure, and a willingness to sacrifice and risk everything, and absolute faith in their cause and calling, they never would have embarked on the unseaworthy 94-foot Mayflower. Were it not for their dream and determination to find freedom of conscience and religion in the New World there may have never been a July 4th Independence Day or many of the other American holidays we take for granted and celebrate every year.

After a harrowing passage across the Atlantic — one that included wild pitching and broadside batterings by gale force winds and ferocious seas that caused the splitting of one of the ship’s main beams — the Mayflower was blown off course from the intended destination of the established Virginia Colony to wilds of Cape Cod. The Pilgrims knew not where they were nor how to proceed, so they beseeched the Almighty for favor in a safe arrival and in establishing a new and independent settlement.

Now in sight of land after a frightening voyage and facing hunger from depleted provisions, some of the secular Mayflower passengers were clamoring for rebellion. And so under the direction of Pilgrim leaders William Brewster and William Bradford, the drafting of a governing agreement was undertaken to quell unrest and ensure the establishment of a unified settlement that would be acceptable to both their Christian brethren and the secular crewman and merchant adventurers who made up about half the 102 people aboard the Mayflower. That governing document, known as the Mayflower Compact was introduced “solemnly and mutually in the presence of God and one another,” and it was specifically referred to as a covenant. A covenant is an unbreakable agreement — with precedents being made between God and towering figures of Jewish history — such as Abraham, Noah, and Moses. 

After Moses led the Israelites out of Egypt, crossed the Red Sea and journeyed on to Mt. Sinai, God made a covenant with Moses providing the Israelites the Ten Commandments and other laws — a necessary requirement before they could proceed and cross into the Promised Land. Similarly, every able man aboard the Mayflower, had to sign the Mayflower Compact before each could “cross over” and finally set foot in the New World after their ship arrived at Provincetown at the tip of Cape Cod at sunrise on Saturday, November 11, 1620. As a covenant adapted to the civil need of forming a government with laws — established “for the general good of the colony” — the Mayflower Compact embodied fundamental principles of self-government and common consent. Thus, the Mayflower Compact was the beginning of democratic government in America, and it is often cited as the cornerstone of the U.S. Constitution.

The fact that all the Pilgrims survived the squalid and cramped ship quarters during the dangerous crossing of a vast ocean, is no doubt partially attributable to the good fortune that the Mayflower had previously been enlisted as a wine transport cargo ship. Unlike most ships, she had a “sweet smell,” from all her decks and bilges being “disinfected” with wine sloshing and soaking from broken barrels of Bordeaux in the many prior crossings of the sometimes stormy English Channel.

That all changed once the Mayflower’s passengers settled in Plymouth, Massachusetts in December of 1620. The first winter was devastating, with over half the Pilgrims dying, including nearly half the women. Four whole families perished. But it could have been worse.

Had those colonists not settled in Plymouth, adjacent to friendly Native Americans, and had they not befriended two who could speak broken English — Samoset and Squanto — perhaps none would have survived. In fact, just four months after the Pilgrims disembarked in Plymouth, Samoset facilitated the signing of a Peace Treaty between the Pilgrim colonists and Massassoit, the chief of the Wampanoag tribe. At the same time native tribesman were teaching the Pilgrims survival skills, showing them how to hunt, fish and plant various crops, such as corn — which was unknown to Europeans.

The Pilgrims were extraordinarily grateful for the first season’s harvest — modest though it was — and decided to invite Massassoit and some of his people to a three-day long feast, at which they would thank God not only for the harvest, but also for their survival and initial success of a diverse colony that included both Christians and non-believers.

No one knows for sure the exact date of this three-day event patterned after the “harvest fest” in England and also the Feast of Tabernacles in the Jewish calendar. Massassoit arrived with some 100 followers, more than two times the number of the Pilgrims, and for three days they entertained each other and feasted.

This feast later became known as the first Thanksgiving, which we now celebrate on the fourth Thursday of November. Some eighteen months after this feast, it came to be known that Massassoit was on the brink of death from an unknown sickness. Governor William Bradford immediately sent elder Edward Winslow to administer natural herbs, medicines, and prayers to Massassoit. Astonishingly, he made full recovery within days, and remarked, “Now I see the English are my friends and love me; and whilst I live, I will never forget this kindness they have showed me.”

Times are very different than they were nearly 400 years ago at the time of the Mayflower’s voyage to the New World. But the qualities of character that made the Pilgrims exemplary are as relevant today as they were back then. A contemporary Thanksgiving makeover might include: rekindling a quest for adventure; growing the faith to hold on to a vision of a promised land no matter what; mustering the courage to go against the crowd and defend the truth; gaining determination to endure hardship; rejuvenating a joyful willingness to sacrifice for others; revitalizing respect and tolerance of people of different beliefs; and renewing the predisposition to extend love and gratitude at every appropriate opportunity. 

Scott Powell is a Senior Fellow at Discovery Institute and managing partner of RemingtonRand LLC. Three generations of his family lived in the Peabody Bradford House, built by a great grandson of Governor William Bradford in 1760 in Kingston, MA. Reach him at [email protected]

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Honoring Veterans on Veterans Day

Veteran’s Day had its origin at the end of World War I in 1918, a conflict so horrendous that it was dubbed “the Great War” or “the war to end all wars,” with the United States playing the decisive role in the Allied powers final victory. It was first known as Armistice Day, celebrated on Nov. 11 because that was the day agreed upon by the Allied nations and Germany to begin a total cessation of hostilities. It went into effect on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month in 1918, after some 20 million people from both sides had given their lives in the war effort. The Treaty of Versailles was signed some seven months later Read More ›


Disappearing Access to Public Places and Officials

Overlooked perhaps in the cultural shift that we have been observing in recent months is the continuing decline of public access to the public’s officials — and, for that matter, to public spaces. The perpetrators of civil disorder are doing that to us. President Trump was criticized for saying that synagogues should hire armed guards, but the largely unreported reality is that many already are guarded. So are some churches and other public venues that are being forced to reassess their safety. The supermarket that just opened in my Seattle neighborhood, I notice, has guards at every entrance. So do numerous stores, offices and other enterprises that once afforded easy, relaxed access. The Department of Labor says that there now are more security guards than police officers employed in America (1.1 million vs. 660,000). The trend is nowhere more evident than in government buildings, especially where elected officials are located. To bar cranks and crazies, ordinary citizens routinely are blocked, too. Rates for serious crimes are low, but small infractions and threats are very possibly rising and yet disregarded in our hyper-politicized age. Is it possible that the loss of people’s sense of safety — that leads to the need for more security — is due to lax enforcement of violations of the peace? Are police and prosecutors and the FBI failing to follow up evidence of credible physical threats? What has happened to the preventive role of law enforcement? Whatever the explanation, fanatics and organized disrupters are robbing Americans of the freedom of access Americans historically enjoyed. Think about changes to the accessibility of elected officials. In his prologue to “The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt,” Edmund Morris describes a 1907 New Year’s Day reception where the president threw open the doors of the White House to anyone who wanted to show up. “TR” shook 8,150 hands that day. Such a scene is hard to imagine at the White House — and other government buildings — now, as restrictions on public access increase with each new administration. The rowdy crowds that got into the U.S. Capitol and into the faces of senators during the Kavanaugh confirmation hearings exposed some of the perhaps-erroneous assumptions that, by tradition, have permitted a relatively free interplay of congressmen and constituents. All it took to prevent members from using “Members Only” elevators, for example, were some protesters prepared to put their bodies in the senators’ paths. To get past demonstrators and into their offices senators had to engage the assistance of several aides. Concern for security long ago expanded from official Washington to offices of media, trade associations and other potential targets in the capital. From there it radiated to big cities across the country. Disrupters are getting better funded and more brazen. There are companies that advertise, like one in Beverly Hills, “Crowds for Hire.” We have some 500,000 elected officials in America, and not all of them are worried about safety, of course. The town clerk in some rustic burg is probably just as approachable as ever. But there is discussion among prominent politicians — and among campaign managers — about when and how to take security precautions. The intolerance that leads to violence in some college campuses has extended, for example, to “town hall” meetings and “district days” called by members of Congress. As a result, there were fewer than usual town halls offered in the session now ending. A handful of top leaders in Congress has been assigned armed protective officers for several years now. One such security unit rescued Rep. Steve Scalise, Louisiana Republican, last year and saved other Republican House Members who were attacked by a shooter who had tracked them down at a baseball practice. Ordinary House and Senate members do not get regular protection, but some localities, even in rural areas, are providing it when the members of Congress are in their home states. Politicians do not want to talk on the record about the security problem. For one thing, they don’t want to call attention to their vulnerability. Also, they know the citizens’ right to petition the government is sacred in our system. Beyond that, a good politician strongly desires opportunities for live meetings, to hear questions directly from constituents and to provide answers. Politicians also are wary of punishing people — and thereby give them publicity — if they disrupt a meeting. Further, some police, made fearful of lawsuits, are slow to make arrests. Government agencies in many locales seem to think that the civil liberties of a crazed person are more important to protect than the safety of the public — or even, of the crazed person himself. Prosecutors and courts, for their part, often dismiss disorderly conduct citations once a point of immediate danger is past. An attitude of leniency, however, can be exploited by disrupters who study exactly how far they can trespass. The same goes for threats of violence recklessly made on social media. Failure to intercede is an invitation to push further. Perhaps it is time for public officials and police agencies to reconsider how seriously they pursue cranks and physical disrupters. As with the “broken windows” theory of combatting crime, which holds that quick police response to small incidents helps prevent more serious ones, there comes a point where you need to enforce the existing laws on public decorum. You need to provide some instructive fines and jail time for those who attempt mob action. You also need to follow up vigorously any leads on possibly deranged individuals given to physical threats online or in person. Otherwise, our access to public spaces and public officials will continue to erode, along with freedoms we too long have taken for granted. • Bruce Chapman founded Discovery Institute and is the author of “Politicians: The Worst Kind of People to Run the Government, Except for All the Others” (2018). Go to Story (offsite) ›

Canadian Doctors Get Ready for Child Euthanasia

It never made any sense. The assurance that active euthanasia would always be limited to terminally ill, competent adults just never made any sense. Here’s the problem: Once a society widely supports eliminating suffering by eliminating the sufferer and redefines as a “medical treatment” the act whereby doctors kill seriously ill patients, there is no logical argument for limiting euthanasia to adults with legal decision-making capacity. After all, children suffer too, so how can they be logically refused “medical aid in dying” — or MAID, the current euphemism for euthanasia and assisted suicide — only because of their age? The short answer, of course, is that they can’t and they won’t be, once a society generally embraces euthanasia consciousness, as is demonstrated by the three countries where lethal-jab euthanasia has been legalized and now has popular support. Belgium legalized euthanasia in 2002 for anyone age twelve and older. In 2014, it eliminated all age restrictions. A recent report published by Belgian authorities reveals that three children were euthanized legally in 2016–17 — the youngest at age nine — with the two others at ages eleven and 17, respectively. Their maladies? Cystic fibrosis, muscular dystrophy, and a brain tumor. Euthanasia has popular support in the Netherlands as well. There children down to age twelve are permitted to be euthanized, with parental permission required until age 17. Infanticide is also practiced openly by Dutch doctors, even though it is technically illegal. Indeed, the “Groningen Protocol,” a bureaucratic checklist published by Dutch pediatricians, describes which terminally ill and seriously disabled babies can be put down. When these horrors are brought up in euthanasia debates in the United States, assisted-suicide advocates wave off the concern as mere slippery-slope advocacy and sniff that whatever policies Belgium and Netherlands have adopted, those countries are very different culturally from the United States. Now that blithe assurance is poised to become inoperable, as Canada appears on the verge of allowing children to be euthanized. The Canadian Supreme Court in 2015 created a right to be euthanized, followed by enabling legislation in the national and provincial parliaments. The law basically guarantees the availability of euthanasia to adults experiencing intractable suffering — as defined by the patient — in circumstances where death is reasonably foreseeable. Serious discussions are now underway to expand that license to children. That development is especially alarming for the United States, given that Canada is our closest cultural cousin. The Canadian medical establishment has clearly signaled its acquiescence. Earlier this year, the Canadian Paediatric Society issued a position paper entitled “Medical Assistance in Dying: A Paediatric Perspective.” The paper is entirely uncritical of expanding the euthanasia law to include minors. More than that, the statement makes recommendations about how to implement pediatric euthanasia once the law permits. In refusing to oppose legalization or, indeed, to make even one substantive argument against its moral propriety, the society implicitly endorses a policy that would allow sick and disabled children to be killed. Member pediatricians were polled about the question. Only one-third of respondents opposed expanding Canada’s euthanasia law to children in all circumstances. Almost half (46 percent) were in favor of extending the MAID option to “mature minors experiencing progressive illness or intractable pain.” (According to the report, “the mature minor doctrine recognizes that a patient’s comprehension of the nature and consequences of a treatment has determinants beyond age, and that children’s wishes should be granted degrees of deference that reflect their evolving maturity.”) There’s more: Twenty-nine percent of answering respondents believe in making euthanasia available to mature minors experiencing “intolerable disability,” while 8 percent would even extend the killing to mature minors with “intolerable mental illness as the sole indication”! Some parents are already open to having their sick children killed. A startling 40 percent of those responding to questionnaires reported having already held “exploratory discussions” with parents about killing their seriously ill mature children — and that’s while child euthanasia remains illegal in Canada.
What about euthanasia for “never competent children”? Forty-five respondents reported having received explicit parental requests to euthanize their children. One-half of the requests were for babies under the age of one. Netherlands-style infanticide, here we come. Thirty-two percent of responding doctors said they approved of allowing euthanasia for immature children “in rare situations involving terminal illness or intractable pain, provided that the process was accompanied by significant oversight.” While the paper did not take an explicit position on legalizing child euthanasia, it is not reticent about forcing doctors’ participation once it becomes legal. Even though only 19 percent — still a startling figure — of responding doctors stated they would personally euthanize children, the society argued that, on legalization, dissenting doctors would have the ethical obligation to “inform” patients about the euthanasia option and to “refer requesting patients or families appropriately” to doctors known to be willing to do the deed. (In Canada, this is known as an “effective referral.” An Ontario judge has even ruled that Catholic and other dissenting doctors morally and religiously opposed to euthanasia must so participate in adult euthanasia or get out of medicine. One presumes that the same coercion would apply to pediatricians should pediatric euthanasia become legal.) In contrast to the society’s supportive neutrality (let’s call it) to child euthanasia, in “Medically Assisted Dying in a Paediatric Hospital,” an article in the Journal of Medical Ethics, doctors and bioethicists associated with a children’s hospital in Toronto are positively enthusiastic about expanding the law. Indeed, the authors report, some doctors at the Hospital for Sick Children have already volunteered to euthanize children once that lethal act becomes legal. The authors assume that pediatric euthanasia will be soon legalized in Canada, at least for mature minors — a good bet, as the government has planned legalization as a two-step process, starting with competent adults and then potentially expanding to the legally incompetent. Accordingly, the paper describes the bureaucratic process the hospital plans to implement once minors can be given lethal jabs. I found this point particularly startling: Doctors will be allowed to euthanize “capable minors” — akin to a “mature minor,” as previously described — without parental consent or even their notification (my italics): "If . . . a capable [legally underage] patient explicitly indicates that they do not want their family members involved in their decision-making, although healthcare providers may encourage the patient to reconsider and involve their family, ultimately the wishes of capable patients with respect to confidentiality must be respected. If we regard MAID as practically and ethically equivalent to other medical decisions that result in the end of life, then confidentiality regarding MAID should be managed in this same way." The paper was not as explicit about doctors euthanizing children who do not have the perceived mental capacity to decide for themselves. But the paper does state that lethal jabs should be considered “practically and ethically equivalent to other medical practices that result in the end of life.” That means parents would be able to request pediatric euthanasia in the same way they can now order the removal of life support in an ICU. The members of the working group are also intent on doing what they can to normalize pediatric euthanasia as a standard part of medical practice, stating, “We will . . . as an institution, publicly discuss the provision of MAID in an effort to normalise this procedure and reduce social stigma for everyone involved.” Good grief. Sometimes “social stigma” serves a positive social purpose by preventing immoral acts regardless of legality. Here’s the bottom line: Countries such as the Netherlands, Belgium, and now our most culturally aligned nation, Canada, demonstrate that once a society popularly accepts euthanasia, there are no brakes to prevent the steady expansion of the killing license, to include eventually even children and babies — acts that, until very recently, were universally condemned in the civilized world. Those with eyes to see, let them see.

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The Future of Automotive Transportation

Personal mobility is changing before our eyes. In addition to public transportation, services like Uber, Lyft, BMW’s ReachNow, and other rideshares are providing a variety of new options for commuters. As shared, electric, and autonomous vehicles continue to gain market share, what does this all mean for Seattle? Will it usher in a golden age of transportation, or result in more trips, by more people? Discovery Institute recently hosted a talk with Board member Bryan Mistele. As one of the nation’s leading experts of automotive transportation, Bryan co-chairs Discovery’s ACES Northwest Network with Tom Alberg. He is also the co-founder, President & Chief Executive Officer of INRIX, the leading provider of traffic information in North America. You’ll want to tune into Read More ›


Our Democracy Depends on Midterm Elections

America’s representative form of constitutional democracy is on the verge of breaking down because of political corruption at the highest levels and the concurrent decline in civility and growing mob behavior.

Fundamental and deep division prevents government from fixing itself. But we the people can play a decisive role in turning things around by voting in the midterm elections. First some background.

By the end of the eight-year Obama administration, the Democratic Party leadership found itself with the two-fold challenge of a weak presidential candidate in Hillary Clinton and ineffective and unpopular public policies. At the same time, a significant number of high-ranking U.S. government officials and their subordinates in the Department of Justice, the FBI and the CIA — almost all appointed during the Obama administration — decided collectively to take unusual action to assist Clinton. They effectively formed a cabal and quietly weaponized the Justice Department, the FBI and the CIA to run an operation to create a sensational false narrative about candidate Donald Trump and leak it to the press to stir up scandal they hoped would undermine his candidacy leading up to the November 2016 election.

When those efforts came to naught and Trump was elected, the cabal became more determined. They needed to cover their tracks and take new steps to undermine the now duly elected president — actions that were tantamount to a coup d’état . These actions sent a message to Democratic Party elites that it’s OK to disrespect the results of a legitimate presidential election. And it sent a message to rank-and-file Democrats that it’s OK to break the law and engage in mob behavior to hound and verbally assault highly visible Republican Party figures.

Clinton recently said that “civility can start” if Democrats “are fortunate enough to win back the House and/or the Senate.” Her former vice presidential running mate, Senator Tim Kaine, D-Va., publicly advocated to “fight in the courts, fight in the streets.” Obama’s attorney general Eric Holder recently said of Republicans: “When they go low, we kick them.” Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., who may seek the Democratic presidential nomination in 2020, has called for people to “get up in the face of some Congress people.” In similar fashion, Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif., has gotten endless media replay of her advocacy that, “If you see anybody from that Cabinet in a restaurant, in a department store, at a gasoline station, you get out and you create a crowd. You push back on them. Tell them they’re not welcome anymore, anywhere!”

Even though these are the ways of banana republics — which almost always end in tyranny — Democrat leadership apparently thinks it will be different if they can get away with it and prevail. But substantively, there is no denying that these actions are repudiating core principals of America’s founding and its 230 years of Constitutional rule of law.

And for those who can’t fathom what mob rule would look like in the United States, the 11th-hour ambush of Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh reveals all you need to know: unscrupulous tactics of personal destruction exploiting the #MeToo movement to set the stage for presumption of guilt ginned up by media sensationalism that feeds mob rule. Is Democratic Party leadership now all in with Saul Alinsky, whose 10 Rules for Radicals are simply “the ends justify the means”?

Regardless of party affiliation, citizens need to take a stand now, and voting remains the surest way to send a clear message. It’s time to repudiate mob rule and high-level corruption that has severely harmed federal government institutions — the FBI, the Justice Department, the Senate, the Supreme Court and constitutional due process .

The most important issue this midterm election is not the candidates, but rather the political parties, and where each stands on rule by constitutional law vs. rule by deep state elites and mob rule. Make that determination and get out and vote.

Scott Powell is senior fellow at Discovery Institute in Seattle and managing partner of RemingtonRand LLC. Email him at [email protected]

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Transhumanist Bill of Wrongs

Transhumanists have seen the future and it is authoritarian. More specifically, it is both authoritarian and anti-human. To make matters even worse, transhumanism would coercively bankrupt the world economy. Beyond that, it’s a pipe dream that threatesn venerable Western values. What’s not to like? For those who may not know, transhumanism is an increasingly influential futuristic social movement that flowed out of the high academy to become a pet cause of atheism advocates and Silicon Valley billionaires. Akin to a contemporary Tower of Babel project, it is utopian to the core, with adherents who grandiosely plan to “seize control of human evolution” to bring about a “post-human” species that will leave natural humanity in its wake. When it first emerged, Read More ›


Realism and Homelessness

Take a look at Discovery Institute Research Fellow Christopher Rufo's just-released report on the homelessness crisis in Seattle. Rufo is a documentary filmmaker who has conducted extensive research on the issues of poverty and homelessness in Seattle and around the country. You will find his proposals provocative and timely. (more…) Go to Story (offsite) ›