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Month April 2010

RESPONSE TO HUCKABEE STATEMENT

It is unfortunate that in the wake of his interview with The Perspective, Gov. Mike Huckabee has resorted to ad hominem attacks intended to cast doubt upon our credibility as a publication. This sort of desperate tactic is not surprising, however; politicians in damage-control mode often stoop to attacking the media so they might avoid being accountable for the substance of their remarks.

It is telling that nowhere in his statement did Huckabee suggest he was misquoted in the article, and rightfully so; we have the audio and transcripts to prove that everything reported is accurate.

Huckabee’s problem seems to lie more in the focus of the article, which is centered partially on LGBT issues. We feel that same-sex marriage, laws prohibiting gays and lesbians from adopting children, and ‘Don’t Ask Don’t Tell’ are legitimate policy concerns about which to question national political figures. Gov. Huckabee may disagree.

But regardless, his words speak for themselves, and it is a shame that he is now so quickly embarrassed of them.

Further, Huckabee’s claim that he defended RNC Chairman Michael Steele is simply not true.

Have a listen. (Things are a bit out of order — in the interest of getting this out there, we had to improvise.)

If you can tell what was “grossly distorted,” please let us know.

M. C. Tracey
Editor-in-Chief


Original Video– More videos at TinyPic

Creationism Revisited

By DAN CARDINALE

I’m just going to come out and say it. Creationism is not science. If it were, it would be bad science. Not just incorrect, which it is, but bad science, right along side HIV and climate change denialism. To pretend otherwise is a gross misrepresentation of both science as a discipline and creationism.

To begin, let’s examine just what science is, and what a scientific theory is. Science is simply the process of using controlled experiments and observations to test hypotheses about the natural world. Put another way, as stated by Ken Miller during Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District (the “intelligent design” case), “science is finding natural explanations for natural phenomena.”  Scientific theories must fulfill two criteria. They must have broad experimental support and they must make empirically testable positive predictions. In the approximately 150 year life of the theory, evolution biologists have made thousands of predictions, in fields as diverse as microbiology, genetics, molecular biology, ecology, paleontology, and biogeography, and these predictions have been overwhelmingly confirmed, providing extensive support to evolutionary theory.

Creationism, on the other hand, makes no empirically testable predictions, at least not those that would lend positive support for creationism should they be accurate. Rather, the predictions made by creationism are negative predictions aimed at what evolution cannot do, or where evidence is supposedly lacking. For example, consider the concept of irreducible complexity, used by creationists to attack evolution, which states that if there should exist a system or structure that fails to function if any one of its components should be removed or defective, then that system cannot have evolved, because the probability of all of the components assembling in their present configuration is prohibitively small. Let us suppose, for the sake of argument, that such a structure were to be discovered. Would this lend credence to creationism?

Before I answer that question, let me first examine the underlying premise, that irreducible complexity (IC) carries with it some degree of scientific weight. This premise is not just false, but absurd. There have been numerous systems identified as examples of IC. These include the bacterial flagellum, the eye, and mammalian blood clotting. By the “textbook” definition of IC, each of these systems qualifies, since they are essentially non-functional should any part be lost or significantly altered. Evidence of this fact is the long list of defects that cause hemophilia in humans. But does this mean that such systems can’t have evolved? Hardly. For every example of an IC system that requires every part, there exists a homologous system that functions just fine without one or several components. The flagella found in E. coli may require dozens of parts, but other species make due without the P ring, or the L ring. Dolphins lack several clotting factors critical in humans, but as a species do not suffer from chronic hemophilia. It isn’t even required that the intermediate or incomplete stages of a structure have the same purpose as the modern forms in order to be favored by natural selection, only that there is some benefit to having the intermediate stages. For example, birds’ feathers probably weren’t for flight originally. It’s more likely that early feathers were used for thermoregulation and were only adapted for their present use more recently.

But that didn’t answer the original question. Even should IC be a credible, testable concept with broad experimental support, and natural selection discredited, is creationism supported? The short answer is no, it isn’t. To use IC (or some other invented deficiency of evolution) as support for creationism establishing a false dichotomy, one that states that the only two options on the table are evolution by natural selection or special creation. Could there not be some other hypothetical evolutionary mechanism that could produce such a structure? Certainly; IC favors neither that nor creation over the other. In order for creationism to have actual support, there must be positive, experimental evidence in its favor, rather than merely against evolution by natural selection. Because it lacks such evidence, it cannot be considered even a remotely credible scientific theory.

Let us now examine the issue from a different angle. Creationism is not science, and has no positive support, but what of the supposed deficiencies in the theory of evolution? How can sexual reproduction have evolved? Complex structures such as the eye? Systems as layered and complex as blood clotting? In the interest of space and accessibility (assuming the reader is still awake), I’ll look at only the first example I’ve mentioned: sexual reproduction. The objection goes something like this: sexual reproduction requires two individuals of opposite sexes (or mating types), so they would have to have evolved independently and simultaneously, which is highly improbably, essentially statistically impossible. How did evolution “know” to develop sex?

I frame the question thusly since that is representative of the most common presentation when a counter-evolutionary argument is made, but to ask such a question is absurd. Evolution doesn’t “know” anything. Evolution is a process, not an entity. Even natural selection, the actual driving force of evolutionary change, isn’t forward looking; the traits of those organisms that have higher fitness (meaning reproductive success, not that they work out every day) will be present in higher proportions in the next generation.

Going back to the question itself, we have a case where a faulty assumption is implied. Reproduction is not either sexual or asexual, with no room for compromise. There are abundant examples of organisms that exhibit both sexual and asexual reproduction, from primitive bacteria up through multicellular animals, such as aphids. Which reproductive strategy a particular organism employs is often based on its environment: a relatively stable and nutrient rich environment will maintain purely asexual reproduction. Essentially, it’s a case of “it it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” where “fixing it” through sexual reproduction actually reduces the fitness of many individuals. However, in a dynamic environment with relatively scarce resources, propagating the same clone infinitely will have little benefit. Instead, the genetic diversity (and corresponding adaptability) created by sexual recombination is a winning strategy. Those organisms that employ both “know” when to utilize each simply through natural selection against those individuals that reproduce sexually too often or too infrequently, leaving only those that exercise the right combination. As a casual read through an evolutionary biology textbook or journal archive would reveal, this information is not a secret.

This brings me to my next objection to “scientific” creationism: its proponents and adherents, in order to support creationism, must (knowingly or ignorantly) selectively ignore swaths of data in order to find problems with evolutionary theory.  Creationists pretend to be creation scientists while trampling all over the scientific method. They claim that evolution cannot account for this feature or that system, while ignoring stacks of research on that very subject (sometimes quite literally). This is symptomatic of the most unscientific feature of creationism: beginning not with a question, but with the conclusion, and tailoring the data to support it, either through omission (“there is no evidence that sex could evolve”) or misrepresentation (“Darwin said the eye couldn’t evolve”). This leads to objections to evolution based on the argument from personal incredulity: “there may be evidence for evolution, but it isn’t good enough for me.” While this may be personally persuasive, it carries no scientific weight.

When push comes to shove, creationism isn’t about science; it’s about faith. Philosophically, faith and science are in complete opposition to each other. The former is belief without evidence, or in many cases in the face of contrary evidence. The latter is the refusal to accept a proposition without supporting evidence.  To draw this distinction is not close-minded. There have been countless experiments testing the veracity of evolutionary theory, each one a chance for the theory to fail. The fact that it hasn’t in a century and a half of examination is testament to its strength. In order to receive serious consideration in the scientific community, Creationism or any other theory must stand up to similarly rigorous investigation. The fact that Creationism has failed to do so is simply further evidence of its scientific vacuity. These are not merely two theories competing in the open forum of scientific investigation. Creationism violates each of the most basic components of the scientific method; evolution defines what a good scientific theory should be.

I will now diverge significantly from my previous discussion, and turn towards a considerably less straightforward subject: that of right and wrong. As a scientific theory, evolution neither takes nor implies a position on morality. For the purposes of scientific investigation, methodological naturalism (investigating natural causes of natural phenomena) is required, but this is separate and distinct from philosophical naturalism, the belief that nature is the entirety of that which exists. But can evolution by natural selection lead to a sense of morality?

Natural selection acts to increase the fitness of populations, and many species exhibit altruistic behavior, increasing the fitness of their respective populations, even if their personal fitness is adversely affected. This is especially the case when close relatives benefit. Is it such a mental leap of faith to posit that this inherent tendency, coupled with a brain intelligent enough to perceive the effects of one’s actions on the well being, both physical and emotional, of others, leads directly to an intrinsic sense of right and wrong? Are we to believe, that for all the depth and complexity of the human mind, it takes an outside force to impose some sort of order on our species, that we are not up to the task ourselves?

No.

All available evidence tells us that evolution, not God, has created beautifully complex beings in humans. Our self-awareness is, as far as we can tell, unique among living things. We can perceive when we benefit others, and when we harm them, and thanks to our well-developed brains, we can go beyond perception. We can empathize, we can imagine. And we know that have to respect that. I don’t need God to tell me what’s right and wrong, nor does anyone else. We’ve learned it, collectively, over the lifetime of our species, and to put it back in evolutionary terms, those that learned the right lessons survived, while the populations that failed to do so died out. The development of an intellect sufficient to care for others because it’s right, and for no other reason, might be the crowning achievement of evolution.

The State of Our ‘Public Ivy’

When a contentious journalist and social critic spoke at the College in early March, few could have anticipated the reaction that would ensue. Ours is a decrepit, dying culture, Chris Hedges insisted, shackled by corporate titans who profit from our endless, gullible consumerism. Our infatuation with celebrity, lack of critical self-awareness, and blind deference to institutional structures have systemically lulled us into a complacent malaise, thereby allowing the privileged elite to maintain their tyrannical grip on power.

We are being fed illusions, Hedges charged, which serve only to distract us from what truly demands our attention, including economic injustice, political corruption, and imperialist conflict. The once mighty vessel that is America, Hedges prognosticated, is accelerating on its inevitable descent into watery oblivion.

Huckabee Rips Steele, Romney, LGBT Activists

Calls Romney’s Healthcare Plan “Dismal Failure,” Compares Same-Sex Marriage to Incest

UPDATE: PERSPECTIVE RESPONDS TO HUCKABEE CLAIM THAT HIS VIEWS WERE ‘GROSSLY DISTORTED’ IN ARTICLE (4.13.10)

In an interview Wednesday, former Arkansas governor and Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee weighed in on embattled Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele, slammed his potential 2012 presidential primary rival Mitt Romney, and reiterated strong opposition to same-sex marriage and the repeal of ‘Don’t Ask Don’t Tell.’

IN SICKNESS AND IN HEALTH

TCNJ STUDENTS HONORING GOD’S CALL TO MARRIAGE

Jolynn and Matt Graubart, both graduating from TCNJ this spring, met and began dating when they were fourteen years old. As a hardened cynic, I was shocked, amazed, and slightly disappointed to learn that no family feuding or double suicides had occurred along the way. Imagine my further surprise, then, when I was informed that this undergrad pair had in fact been married – and happily so – for the past year and a half.

DRIFTING RIGHT: HACKETT MAKES A POLITICAL SPLASH

It was no surprise that Brian Hackett began his address to the Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington, D.C. by ripping into Barack Obama. “I would just like the president to know,” the fiery TCNJ senior declared, “these teleprompters are not on, and we’re all speaking off-the-cuff because we’re passionate about what we believe in!”

BOYCOTT METRO PCS

MetroPCS, a wireless communications company, is currently running a multi-commercial racist advertisement campaign. One of these commercials aired during the Super Bowl.

ON FASHION

Sometimes habits lead to unintentional discoveries.

DECONSTRUCTING FACEBOOK

We are a restless species—a species restlessly navigating new technology.

SIGNAL IN THE RED¹

By M. POLIZZO

SFB recently retreated to an off-campus location, as they do every spring, to determine the following year’s SAF (Student Activities Fund) budget. This is the time when each club and organization (including SFB) is given their fiscal horoscope: requests of each group are voted on item-by-item; allotments are allotted; the lines are drawn. Ideally, respective budgets are proportional to group size, spending history, and the benefits derived through said groups.

Ideally.

SFB’S STASH

By ROBERT HICKMAN

The Student Finance Board (SFB) is the governing body that determines which campus organizations are granted funding for events. The money they allocate is drawn from the Student Activities Fee, a component of tuition that all students must pay. It was recently brought to my attention that SFB currently holds a surplus of funds exceeding $1 million – a curiously large sum to simply be sitting around untouched. So I decided to investigate.

TCNJaded

Are you happy?  Visit The College of New Jersey’s homepage and it is impossible to avoid statistics advertising students’ undying love for this institution. One blurb boasts that “85% of TCNJ’s most recent graduating class rated their undergraduate academic experience as either excellent or above average”; another proclaims that TCNJ has an almost unrivaled sophomore year retention rate. Listen in on prospective-student tours led by glittering, striped-shirted “Ambassadors,” and you’ll likely hear that students are enamored with their campus, their professors, and their peers.

But potential TCNJ recruits are not getting the full story.

Now in my junior year, after five and a half semesters’ worth of parties, club meetings, and discussions with scores of TCNJ students, I have noticed an unavoidable undercurrent of antipathy – a sense of unexpected dissatisfaction, a reluctant acceptance of lowered standards, and perhaps even mild (yet unconcealed) resentment.

It may not be a sentiment held by the majority, and it’s not widely acknowledged or discussed, but this simmering discontent is too consistent and pervasive to be ignored.

At the heart of the issue, it seems, is an identity crisis. Much more complex and consequential than any petty “North vs. South Jersey” debate, there is a recurring, implicit dialogue going on at TCNJ about the kind of school this really is – and what we are collectively projecting to the outside world.

For one, students here are constantly defining themselves to others. Even within New Jersey, TCNJ remains somewhat unknown. Thanks to the not-so-distant name change of 1996, when speaking of where they attend college, students are often forced to explain what the TCNJ acronym actually stands for. And whether we refer to our school as the former Trenton State College or by its current name, neither typically rings a bell for those outside New Jersey. Even Trenton State alumni are sometimes incredulous that the “T” in our title really does now stand for “the.”

After the College has been identified, many students find that the next question is whether or not they are education majors. Sophomore Andressa Leite observed, “People, mostly older folks, know TCNJ as Trenton State – as a teaching school. I have been met with surprised stares when I mention that I am not majoring in education here.” All of us are plainly aware that TCNJ has only recently transformed itself into a credible liberal arts college – in stark contrast to its past image as little more than a first-rate teacher factory.

But aside from concerns of academic perception, students routinely grapple with more fundamental questions of our institutional character: How smart are we? How smart are we supposed to be?

Promotional material produced by the College’s Public Relations Department constantly reminds us that TCNJ is considered a “public ivy,” but anecdotal evidence suggests the label might not yet be applicable. One student, who asked to remain nameless, gave a harrowing account of an incident that for him called into question whether admission standards are truly as high as we are led to believe:

“Last semester in a political science class, the professor asked a girl whether the incumbent party’s candidate had won the last presidential election. She finally stopped texting on her Blackberry and replied, ‘Can you define incumbent?’ I just about slammed my head on the desk.”

Of course, antipathy toward the College does not stem purely from academic concerns. Many students here rightly find the classes valuable and the professors engaging, but are highly disappointed with the surrounding cultural and social atmosphere. Unlike Princeton or other places closely associated with a proximate university, Ewing is clearly not a “college town”; there is very little active nightlife and definitely no discernible downtown area. And unlike nearby Rider University, our fraternity housing is required to remain off-campus. To access nighttime entertainment or some kind of Greek function, we have to put in quite a bit more effort than those on other campuses, where by comparison social opportunities are seemingly limitless.

College administrators and other consultants are now smartly working on a “Campus Town Project” that could make TCNJ more active and inviting. In the meantime, however, students must make the best of what is currently available.

I have found that for some, what TCNJ most sorely lacks is not necessarily a vibrant ‘night scene’ but an interesting and varied social life more generally. Some find refuge in fraternities and sororities, others in solitude or smaller gatherings – but a noticeable portion of us are often stuck somewhere in the middle.

We are thus disillusioned that in order to meet people after midnight, one must typically shell out $5 for frat party entry; and to those underwhelmed by cheap beer, Greek-life stereotypes, and blaring music that defies conversation, the experience often leaves much to be desired. One student attempted to identify the problem with these parties: “They become such a routine,” he said. “The same rowdy guys hanging around the beer pong table, the same crew playing flip-cup, the same girls grinding on sweaty dudes – and one another. It becomes stale and predictable.”

But for Andrew Kaplan, a freshman who transferred out of TCNJ halfway through this spring semester, more interesting frat parties would not have sufficed. “I felt disconnected with the student body – I felt a lack of intellectual stimulation. I felt trapped, so to speak, because of the location of the school. There are not many outlets outside of campus.”

Luckily for us, college students have endless ingenuity. Cluster enough people from our age bracket into a concentrated area, and some entertainment and camaraderie must inevitably result. But an environment more conducive to building meaningful relationships outside the dorms would nevertheless be a welcome addition. Too often it seems we must pursue substantive social lives in spite of our college’s atmosphere, rather than with assistance from it.

Of course, there is a context for these criticisms; most of us are happy with TCNJ. And after all, there is no school, regardless of prestige or endowment size, that is without faults. Every college or university – from Harvard, to NYU, to our humble suburban enclave – must deal with complaints from those who are dissatisfied for any plethora of reasons. That being said, we should not act as if these faults are nonexistent. Only upon acknowledging them more openly can we work to improve.

Sarah Burdick contributed reporting.

5 GOOD MINUTES

WITH MARTA PACZKOWSKA

FRESHMEN TAKE A STAND (SORT OF)

A PERSPECTIVE POLL

Can you name the current governor of New Jersey? How about the Secretary of Defense? When it comes to some of this era’s most contentious social issues, where do you stand?

In an attempt to take a snapshot of political and social values among the College’s freshman class, The Perspective surveyed eighty-five random residents of Wolfe Hall in early March. Participants remained anonymous.

FRAT PARTIES: CAUTION, FLAMMABLE

By ALEXANDRIA BACHERT

Whether or not you’re a fan, off-campus frat parties are an unmistakable part of the college experience. Indeed, many of us have taken that well-known trek to a sweaty, cluttered basement in search of some combination of jungle juice and promiscuity. But while the thumping beats and diluted alcohol may temporarily drown out any safety-related concerns, several people associated with Greek life, some of whom asked not to be named, have said that the massive parties they routinely host are major fire hazards.

LADY MADONNA


Nose-bleed tickets to Lady Gaga concerts are apparently going for upwards of $100 a piece. What happened?

COLLEGE’S DISCRIMINATION POLICY VIOLATED, CIVIL SUIT PENDING

Racial Tension, Lawsuit Beleaguer Campus Police Department

Three black members of the College’s security force are suing their white counterparts, as well as the College itself, for racial discrimination, The Perspective has learned.

Campus Police Officer Lorenzo Shockley, joined by security guards Wayne Evans and Armond Harris, claim they have been subjected to “a hostile work environment because of their race,” according to court documents. They name three white officers, Sergeant Raymond Scully, Officer C. Matthew Mastrosimone, and Sergeant Kevin McCullough as the primary perpetrators.