Video: the policeman’s friend

Ed Brayton has published a long list of police departments abusing people’s First Amendment rights and illegally interfering with people trying to videotape their conduct. But now, in a refreshing change of pace, there is news of at least one police department that finally “gets” video technology.

After years of seeing officers’ misconduct captured on video, police departments across the nation are trying to use the medium to their advantage, releasing footage of their own to rebut allegations and to build trust within communities. One department even posted video of an officer punching a woman to show why he was fired.

Weeks before the Occupy demonstration in April, Minneapolis police created their own YouTube channel to give officers a venue to tell their own stories.

Ed has been saying this all along: video is the policeman’s best friend. Police departments have significant power to do harm in society, and consequently deserve closer scrutiny. Video records of their actions will vindicate proper conduct and expose improper conduct. That’s a win-win all around.

The next Harold Camping

I’ve actually picked up a couple new commenters at Evangelical Realism recently. One of them is tokyotodd, whose philosophical arguments I touched on yesterday. The other is Mike Gantt, who reminds me a lot of Harold Camping (without the end-of-the-world fixation). Speaking of his views on hell, he writes:

I came to it by reading such Scripture passages in context, thus allowing its words to be understood in the ancient milieu in which they were uttered. It is the distorting lens of institutional Christianity and secular modernity that obscure the Bible’s plain teaching on the subject.

Like Camping, Gantt seems to make no distinction between “the Bible’s plain teaching” and his own personal interpretation of the Bible. He can readily see that other people, including William Lane Craig, have interpretations that are wrong (i.e. that conflict with his interpretation), and he even goes so far as to claim that the institution that created the Bible is also at fault for distorting it (i.e. producing teachings that conflict with his interpretation). But it’s very difficult to challenge his interpretation because, in his words, you’re not challenging his opinions, you’re challenging the plain teaching of Scripture.

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Science and the supernatural

In a comment over at my other blog, tokyotodd writes:

In order for a worldview to be capable of addressing questions about God or miracles, it must first posit some sort of methodology by which these objects (if they existed) could be detected and empirically verified. This requires knowledge of the objects being investigated, without which it would be impossible, or at least highly presumptuous, to make predictions about how we might expect to encounter or observe them. This would seem to rule out naturalism as a useful worldview, since it simply presupposes the nonexistence of the supernatural and therefore cannot really address questions about it (except to regard them as meaningless).

There are indeed difficulties involved in the investigation of the supernatural, but the scientific worldview isn’t one of them. Science (sometimes called “naturalism” in the same way evolution gets labelled  “Darwinism”) is entirely neutral on the question of natural vs. supernatural, and has routinely investigated phenomena that were popularly regarded as supernatural at the time. The problem with the supernatural is the vague and volatile definition of what “supernatural” is supposed to mean.

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Korean creationists get science out of textbooks.

It sounds odd to hear a story like this from Asia, but according to Nature.com, South Korea has a creationist problem as well, to the point that it’s negatively impacting science education over there.

A petition to remove references to evolution from high-school textbooks claimed victory last month after the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology (MEST) revealed that many of the publishers would produce revised editions that exclude examples of the evolution of the horse or of avian ancestor Archaeopteryx.

I suppose one way to protect America from the negative consequences of sabotaging our own science education is to sabotage everyone else’s as well, but still.

“Liberty Institute” unclear on what “establishment” means

The Liberty Institute, a self-described “nonprofit legal group dedicated to defending and restoring religious liberty across America,” is asking a Texas district court to dismiss a lawsuit against the Wood County Commissioners Court for opening their public meetings with prayer, and for displaying the motto “In God We Trust.”

“Higher courts have already determined that legislative prayers and our nation’s national motto are constitutional,” said Jeff Mateer, General Counsel of Liberty Institute. “Our nation has a longstanding tradition of opening governmental meetings with prayer as well as publicly acknowledging the role of God in our governmental institutions. Such traditions and acknowledgments do not violate the First Amendment.”

In other words, we have a long-established history of putting religion in government, and therefore we have not violated the First Amendment prohibition against establishing religion in government. And in related news, there’s no racism in America because we have a long history of preferential treatment for whites.

via MarketWatch.

NC bill to mandate short-sightedness

Remember when Fukushima happened, how clear it was in hindsight that disaster might have been prevented with a little more foresight and better planning for a worst-case scenario? That’s exactly the kind of foresight and planning that needs to be outlawed, according to a bill proposed by Republicans in North Carolina.

A state-appointed science panel has reported that a 1-meter rise in sea level is likely by 2100.

The calculation, prepared for the N.C. Coastal Resources Commission, was intended to help the state plan for rising water that could threaten 2,000 square miles. Critics say it could thwart economic development on just as large a scale.

A coastal economic development group called NC-20 attacked the report, insisting the scientific research it cited is flawed. The science panel last month confirmed its findings, recommending that they be reassessed every five years. But NC-20, named for the 20 coastal counties, appears to be winning its campaign to undermine them.

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