Monday, May 24, 2004

Wedding Pictures

Everybody expects governments to lie, especially about military matters in a failing war. You have to wonder, however, whether or not there is a point at which relentless fabrication becomes self-defeating. What we have here is not an instance of rhetorical tactic of casting doubt on the witness’ testimony because he lied about an affair with his uncle’s second wife. The problem is quite real for those of us who, whatever our own propagandistic intentions, also want to know what eigentlich gewesen ist. At this point, nothing the administration says counts as evidence, except, perhaps, evidence of the state of mind of the administration. I haven’t a clue who killed Berg or why. I don’t know to what extent Chalabi and therefore the American government was effectively working for the Iranians all along. I don’t know how much various officers and civilian DOD administrators knew about the specifics of the torture and murder of prisoners. And I certainly do not expect any official investigation to clear things up. Why credit any proceeding controlled by the same military careerists and right wing ideologues who created the problem in the first place? Legalities and procedures only work where people with integrity make them work—in its cruder versions, faith in the rule of law is simply animism—and the one thing we have no reason to have any doubts about is the integrity of Bush, Rumsfeld, and the others.

Sunday, May 23, 2004

Somebody Up There Likes Pus

The 14 May issue of SCIENCE summarizes a piece of research recently published in the journal Cell by You et. al. Certain papilloma viruses that maintain a latent infection have developed a protein tether that attaches the viral genome the chromosomes of their hosts so that the virus will be shared out between daughter cells during mitosis. It all sounds very clever, though it is hardly the most elaborate biochemical trick played by parasites, some of whom manipulate the behavior of their hosts or promote their own survival by altering the sex ratios of their host’s offspring. All of which raises a question in my mind.

The Intelligent Design folks claim that certain biological mechanisms are too complex and intricate to have developed by chance. They usually point to such examples as the bacterial flagellum and the vertebrate clotting mechanism as systems that are, in their lingo, irreducibly complex and therefore prima facie evidence of the intervention of something or somebody. If you buy into this logic, however, don’t you have to address the possibility that complex parasitical adaptations are also evidence of design? Furthermore, since the tricks of the parasites appeared very late in the history of life, doesn’t the uncanny biochemical virtuosity of tapeworms and plasmodia strongly suggest that wonders have yet to cease?