Libyan Missiles Looted

Oh, joy. Tell me again that our kinetic military action to overthrow Gadhaffi was a good idea. Here is an item from CNN that suggests otherwise.

TRIPOLI, Libya (CNN) – A potent stash of Russian-made surface-to-air missiles is missing from a huge Tripoli weapons warehouse amid reports of weapons looting across war-torn Libya.

They are Grinch SA-24 shoulder-launched missiles, also known as Igla-S missiles, the equivalent of U.S.-made Stinger missiles.

A CNN team and Human Rights Watch found dozens of empty crates marked with packing lists and inventory numbers that identified the items as Igla-S surface-to-air missiles.

The list for one box, for example, written in English and Russian, said it had contained two missiles, with inventory number “Missile 9M342,” and a power source, inventory number “Article 9B238.”

Grinch SA-24s are designed to target front-line aircraft, helicopters, cruise missiles and drones. They can shoot down a plane flying as high as 11,000 feet and can travel 19,000 feet straight out.

Fighters aligned with the National Transitional Council and others swiped armaments from the storage facility, witnesses told Human Rights Watch. The warehouse is located near a base of the Khamis Brigade, a special forces unit in Gadhafi’s military, in the southeastern part of the capital.

The warehouse contains mortars and artillery rounds, but there are empty crates for those items as well. There are also empty boxes for another surface-to-air missile, the SA-7.

Peter Bouckaert, Human Rights Watch emergencies director, told CNN he has seen the same pattern in armories looted elsewhere in Libya, noting that “in every city we arrive, the first thing to disappear are the surface-to-air missiles.”

He said such missiles can fetch many thousands of dollars on the black market.

“We are talking about some 20,000 surface-to-air missiles in all of Libya, and I’ve seen cars packed with them.” he said. “They could turn all of North Africa into a no-fly zone.”

I guess we know what Libya’s major export over the next few years is going to be, besides oil. I agreed that Gadhaffi was a loathsome dictator who mistreated his people and supported terrorism. Worst of all, no one knew how to spell his name. But, at least he was tamed for the last few years. I simply do not believe that the National Transitional Council is going to be much of an improvement and now we are going to have surface to air missiles floating all around the region.

God Made Man or Man Made God?

Here is an op-ed piece from the Los Angeles Times that I have been meaning to comment upon. There is a discussion here about the possible origins of religion. The scientific research that the authors of this article refers to is interesting and may well shed light on certain aspects of human cognition and behavior but I think their conclusions, that this research shows there is no God or gods, and the religious impulses are simply the result of natural selection and should be discarded, go beyond the realm of science and are unwarranted. Here are some excerpts.

Before John Lennon imagined “living life in peace,” he conjured “no heaven … / no hell below us …/ and no religion too.”

No religion: What was Lennon summoning? For starters, a world without “divine” messengers, like Osama bin Laden, sparking violence. A world where mistakes, like the avoidable loss of life in Hurricane Katrina, would be rectified rather than chalked up to “God’s will.” Where politicians no longer compete to prove who believes more strongly in the irrational and untenable. Where critical thinking is an ideal. In short, a world that makes sense.

In recent years scientists specializing in the mind have begun to unravel religion’s “DNA.” They have produced robust theories, backed by empirical evidence (including “imaging” studies of the brain at work), that support the conclusion that it was humans who created God, not the other way around. And the better we understand the science, the closer we can come to “no heaven … no hell … and no religion too.”

 

In addition to these adaptations, humans have developed the remarkable ability to think about what goes on in other people’s minds and create and rehearse complex interactions with an unseen other. In our minds we can de-couple cognition from time, place and circumstance. We consider what someone else might do in our place; we project future scenarios; we replay past events. It’s an easy jump to say, conversing with the dead or to conjuring gods and praying to them.

Morality, which some see as imposed by gods or religion on savage humans, science sees as yet another adaptive strategy handed down to us by natural selection.

 

Beyond psychological adaptations and mechanisms, scientists have discovered neurological explanations for what many interpret as evidence of divine existence. Canadian psychologist Michael Persinger, who developed what he calls a “god helmet” that blocks sight and sound but stimulates the brain’s temporal lobe, notes that many of his helmeted research subjects reported feeling the presence of “another.” Depending on their personal and cultural history, they then interpreted the sensed presence as either a supernatural or religious figure. It is conceivable that St. Paul’s dramatic conversion on the road to Damascus was, in reality, a seizure caused by temporal lobe epilepsy.

The better we understand human psychology and neurology, the more we will uncover the underpinnings of religion. Some of them, like the attachment system, push us toward a belief in gods and make departing from it extraordinarily difficult. But it is possible.

We can be better as a species if we recognize religion as a man-made construct. We owe it to ourselves to at least consider the real roots of religious belief, so we can deal with life as it is, taking advantage of perhaps our mind’s greatest adaptation: our ability to use reason.

I don’t suppose that it could possibly occur to the authors that the reason that humans are “hard-wired” for religion might possibly be that there is, in fact, a God, and that He has provided the means for us to know Him.

The fact that religious impulses and feelings can be tracked by scanning the brain is no great surprise.  Nor is the concept that religion, in many cases, encourages moral behavior and is an advantage in natural selection. There have been many surveys which have shown that religious people tend to be happier and better adjusted. It goes beyond the findings of science to conclude from these facts that there is no God or that reason and religion are incompatible and frankly, I think that it is inappropriate to attempt to use the mantle of science to promote what are simply the personal opinions of the writers.

 

I notice that most of the related articles provide by wordpress seem to be by atheists gleefully reporting that Science shows that God does not exist. Here is one that rebuts the article from the Loss Angeles Times better than I could.