Friday, December 02, 2005

Evolutionary Head Scratcher

This was spurred on by a few lines in a Neal Stephenson novel, probably Cryptonomicon. At one point, Stephenson describes a weed as a stupendous evolutionary badass because it, like every other living thing on earth, was the product of millions of years of winnowing.

So, I carried that thought in my mind for quite some time and my wife, an OB-GYN, tripped a connection. She was talking about the large numbers of women who need C-sections and the many different pregnancy complications that are continually part of her world. I thought, wait a minute, why are there so many faulty child-bearers out there?

After millions of years of winnowing, the trait of having an inadequate cervix, or lack of pushing force, or failure to begin labor should have been bred out long ago. It's only been the last fifty years or so that we could save women like that. Previously, they and their children would have overwhelmingly met their end in labor . . . and did.

Question for the evolutionists: Why aren't we blessed with a flock of women bearing babes with maximum efficiency? Why have the bad childbearing traits survived in such great numbers?

The Evolutionary Tautology

A commenter on our ID post directed us to this supposed refutation of Karl Popper's arguement that the notion of survival of the fittest is a tautology.

The argument posits the following important premise:

This ["survival of the fittest"] is not a tautology, or, if it is, then so is the Newtonian equation F=ma [Sober 1984, chapter 2], which is the basis for a lot of ordinary physical explanation.

That is not true, however, for the two propositions are most definitely not identical in type. The Newtonian equation is a proposition that cannot be untrue; there is no alternative possibility that would explain the relationship between force, mass, and acceleration that we observe. There are, however, other possible explanations for the origin and variety of species. Just as two and two must equal four if the cosmos is to hold together, so must force, mass, and acceleration be related as Newton suggested. For the species we see on the earth to exist, however, Darwinian evolution is not a necessity, as the author of the article admits:

Recently, there have been attacks on the very notion of adaptive explanation by some evolutionary biologists themselves (eg, Gould and Lewontin [1979]). These fall into two camps - those who think adaptation is not enough to explain diversity of form, and those who think that adaptive explanations require more information than one can obtain from either reverse engineering or the ability to generate plausible scenarios. The reason given for the former is a kind of argument from incredulity - natural selection is not thought to be a sufficient cause, and that macroevolution (evolution at or above the level of species) is a process of a different kind than selection within species. Arguments about parsimony (Ockham's Razor) abound.

Darwinian natural selection is the preferred explanation of a great many people, but that is greatly different from it being a necessary proposition. And that is why it can correctly be classified as a tautology, as Popper did.

Have Yourself a Monky Little Christmas

As a public service to all Reform Club Monkophiles: tonight at 10 pm EST, USA Network premieres a special Christmas Monk episode, Mr. Monk and the Secret Santa. Since Monk's regular season doesn't start until mid-January, I thought some people might miss it.

Also on USA, and rather more improbable from my point of view: a very special holiday episode of.....The Dead Zone??

The Theological Opinions of Sports Talk Show Hosts

I was listening to ESPN's Colin Cowherd on the radio a couple of days ago when the host started ripping Michael Irvin (late of the Dallas Cowboys) for bringing up Christianity and the problem of generational curses in his discussion of the recent controversy in which he was found with a crack pipe in his car.

Cowherd started in an interesting way. He said that God is not a prop and the Bible should not be used to deflect blame or criticism. Good stuff. Couldn't agree more.

The slip started to show a little bit as he then proclaimed that if a fellow wants to talk about the Bible, he had better be living it. Don't sin and talk about the Bible. Whoops. Colin, I think you missed your Sunday school class on that one. In fact, you may have missed the whole point. I don't know if Irvin is sincere about being a Christian, but the cup is for sinners, Laddie.

It got worse as Colin apparently got nervous and began to assure listeners he's not very religious (ya kidding bro, I never would have guessed it). Perhaps emboldened by having delivered that disclaimer, the good Cowherd (as opposed to the good Shepherd) provided his own carefully crafted theological opinion clearly informed by a lot of thought. "Religion is like a stream that runs through everything and we can just dip a ladle in and get some refreshment whenever we need it." This was an odd statement to make after he ripped Irvin and other athletes for bringing up religion whenever they are in trouble. No, that doesn't sound anything like dipping in a ladle as needed.

I remember years back reading a GQ article where a reporter ditched a college athletic ceremony because he didn't want to listen to the theological opinions of athletes. Maybe the shoe should be on the other foot and we should just let the athletes keep giving glory to God and have the sports reporters just stick to sports.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

The Nature of the Beast

Courtesy of Instapundit, Steven Den Beste's case for fixing Saddam once and for all (July 2003) is getting a fresh look. (I would add a few things, like the Clinton Administration's sanctions were universally blamed for killing thousands of innocent women and children, not just in the Muslim world, but in the West as well.) The US wanted to make a statement in the Muslim world after 9/11. True. Let's get that out of the way.

It was a strategy, not a tactic. One does not strategically fight a forest fire where it's burning, but with fire breaks, isolating from the flames the parts next likely to go up. Watering the warm parts before they get hot.

Islamism and the New Caliphate of al-Qaeda were fed by tyranny in Muslim countries, tyranny that was often aided and abetted by the West in the interest of stability, tyranny that saps all hope and dignity from Muslim people. But how to break up the logs? How best to confront the beast? What tyrant in the Muslim world had it coming more than Saddam? He continued to butcher his own people, had a decades-long fascination with WMDs, and openly supported terrorists.

Those with good memories will recall that the "Arab street" raised barely a whimper in his defense. Everyone knew he and his lovely sons Uday and Attila had it coming. The rest was politics and posturing, and so it remains today.

The beast? The beast is tyranny, whether it be religious, like bin Laden's and the Taliban, or secular like Saddam's. The strategery of the Bush Administration was to confront the beast, in all its forms, sometimes with arms, sometimes with ideas.

But I do not think that the strategic reasons for the Iraq war would have been appealing to those who get their news from Jon Stewart, the "American street." It takes more than a minute to absorb the idea, and there are no commercial breaks to go take a pee and mull it all over.

Fortunately for the civilized world, the United States is not a democracy. Sorry for that newsflash, but we're a republic. We expect our representives to do the homework and the deep thinking that we're too busy or too disinterested to do. No commercials, no bathroom breaks.

As many (including Bill Bennett) have pointed out, Democratic Senator Russ Feingold made the rounds of the intelligence community on his own, heard the evidence, and voted against authorizing Bush to whack Saddam.

This is why men of conscience like Sen. Feingold are respected and not vilified among us on the right.

As for the 100-odd Democratic members of our Congress who are having second thoughts, well, you helped Bush break it, so you've bought it now too.

Shut the hell up and help us win, because quitting and losing is not an option.

Now, when Russ Feingold, in typically principled fashion, calls for a drawdown, well, people like me listen. And he's not wrong. The Iraqi people do need to get off the welfare of American military protection. I was just hoping, and I think many prudent people were, that such talk could wait until after the December 15 elections, when a legitimately elected and constitutional (as of the October 15, 2005 plebiscite) government, not an interim one, will be elected in Iraq.

Sen. Feingold has been OK by me, but I think he's jumped the shark, which is almost inevitable. The desperation to be relevant once again makes one irrelevant, because even if Sen. Feingold were right back then, we're here now. Bush may have screwed up and we arguably should have left Saddam in place (arguably), but we as a nation crossed the Rubicon long ago.

Can anyone deny that defeat or retreat feeds the militant Islamist beast? I've been thinking that implacability is the true definition of evil. These guys blow up their own people while they're worshipping at mosques. What is it about "unity" movements that's so cannibalistic?

To answer my own question, it's the nature of the beast. To ignore the beast's nature is to willingly participate in one's own destruction.

Tom Bethell on Evolution and ID

Tom Bethell, who writes regularly for the American Spectator, is a favorite author of mine. His writings on science, economics, the environment, and just about everything else under the sun—and indeed about the sun itself—are fascinating in their clarity and pure logic. In today's edition of National Review Online, a perfectly fabulous publication read and admired by absolutely all of the Smart Set, Bethell writes brilliantly on the relative merits of the theories of evolution and intelligent design. You must read the entire article, lest you remain far less brilliant than you could be (and it will only be your own damned fault), but the following excerpt illustrates an important point which the present author has himself made over at the American Spectator, that both evolution and intelligent design are theories that are not falsifiable—and Bethell does us a great favor by reminding us that the philosopher who invented the "falsifiability" test himself said that the theory of evolution by natural selection abysmally failed it!. To wit:

Charles Krauthammer tells us that Isaac Newton was religious and if he saw no conflict between science and religion, why can't we take our thin gruel of evolutionary science like good children and be satisfied, without dragging a Designer into the picture?

Because it isn't real science, Charles. Newton, in fact, thought that the "most beautiful system" of sun, planets, and comets could "only proceed from the counsel and dominion of an intelligent and powerful being." But the laws of physics that govern these motions are simplicity itself compared with the immense complexity of the biological machinery that governs the development, proliferation, growth, and aging of millions of reproductive species. These mechanisms have yet to be discovered or described. To believe that the feeble tautology of natural selection — laissez-faire political economy from the 1830s imported into biology — constitutes a sufficient explanation of the marvels of nature is to display a credulity that makes our fundamentalists seem sagacious by comparison.

George Will has made one accurate criticism of the idea he so dislikes: "The problem with intelligent design is not that it is false but that it is not falsifiable. Not being susceptible to contradicting evidence, it is not a testable hypothesis." This is true; but he should have added that Darwin's theory of evolution by natural selection is not falsifiable either. Darwin's claim to fame was his discovery of a mechanism of evolution; he accepted "survival of the fittest" as a good summary of his natural-selection theory. But which ones are the fittest? The ones that survive. There is no criterion of fitness that is independent of survival. Whatever happens, it is the "fittest" that survive — by definition. This, just like intelligent design, is not a testable hypothesis. As the eminent philosopher of science Karl Popper said, after discussing this problem that natural selection cannot escape: "There is hardly any possibility of testing a theory as feeble as this." Popper was the first to propose falsification as the line of demarcation between theories that are scientific and those that are not; both intelligent design and natural selection fall by this standard.

The underlying problem, rarely discussed, is that the conclusions of evolutionism are based not on science, but on a philosophy: the philosophy of materialism, or naturalism. Living creatures, including human beings, are here on Earth, and we got here somehow. If atoms and molecules in motion are all that exist, then their random interactions must account for everything that exists, including us. That is the true underpinning of Darwinism. What needs to be examined in detail is not so much the religion behind intelligent design as the philosophy behind evolution.

Bloody well right, Tom, as ever.

It Wasn't Just People Magazine, Either...

'Tis the Seizin'

Beware the 'New Wave'!

Baker's Dozin'

Perhaps we can enhance Mr. Baker's Manhattan hotel experience by providing some local color.

More NYC Blogging

One more thing about fancy hotels: they charge you for everything. If I were at the aforementioned Holiday Inn Express, I'd get local calls and high speed internet for free. Here, I pay $12.95 a day to use the internet and make phone calls. Just an observation.

Wandered to the Good Morning America studio window, but they were either on commercial or done because they were talking casually. Didn't see any of the principals. My wife refers to Katie Couric as "the devil," because of her cute image combined with occasionally mean interviewing techniques.

Took the kids all around Times Square, but they're a little young to appreciate it. I'm astounded by the sheer number of Broadway plays and musical productions. There is a musical about everything. I kept expecting to see Fantastic Four: The Musical!

More later . . .

Baker in Times Square . . .

Thanks to a conference my wife is attending, we're hanging out in Times Square at the Marriott Marquis. This is my second trip to the Big Apple. The first was memorable because I was convinced I would die if I went to New York. I grew up in moderate sized southern towns and everything I knew about New York came from 1970's and 80's cop shows. Grimy, corrupt, expensive, randomly violent.

I made that first trip because I was working near Washington, D.C. and my New York friend (one David Chang if he's monitoring) made it a matter of friendship that I come up for a visit despite my massive misgivings. The short version is that it was 1999, Rudy was in charge, and I found NY to be far less threatening than downtown Atlanta. Aside from paying about $300 worth of road tolls on the drive up, I was enchanted.

On this second trip, I've already been reminded of one thing. There is a war between cars, other cars, and pedestrians. David picked us up from the airport and drove us to the heart of Times Square. At various points, I was certain he was going to run into cars that darted in front of him or that he forced his car past. He also came super close to various pedestrians who didn't budge an inch. In any other American town, I think we would have witnessed tragedy on our ride to the hotel, but not here. Everybody seems to know just how much margin there is for error, but it's right up to the edge at all times.

The hotel we're staying in is hideously expensive. On the way over, we discussed the price and location and I said, "The room accommodations will probably be a lot like Holiday Inn Express, Dayton, Ohio." And whaddya know? They basically are. But Holiday Inn Express is pretty good these days.

I'm now awaiting a letter of thanks from Holiday Inn Express and a threaten to sue unless I remove this post about the Marriott Marquis in Times Square.

Finally, a point on multi-culturalism and New York. You know this is a global city when you see a pedecab (modern rickshaw) with a white guy peddling away as an Asian couple whispers sweet nothings to each other in the back seat.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Hellish Overcrowding

The Los Angeles Times ran a long piece profiling a 70-year-old veteran abortionist from Fayetteville, Arkansas. He has personally dispatched 20,000 souls back to the big waiting list in the sky.

Apart from the bland horror of this urban abattoir, I was struck by this astonishing excerpt:

For the few women who arrive ambivalent or beset by guilt, Harrison's nurse has posted statistics on the exam-room mirror: One out of every four pregnant women in the U.S. chooses abortion. A third of all women in this country will have at least one abortion by the time they're 45.

"You think there's room in hell for all those women?" the nurse will ask. . . .

What heights of crassness and jejunity! What an insult to God and Man! What utter absolute irredeemable idiocy! A rape of the mind and the heart and the soul.

Not that it's necessary, but let us enumerate:

1) If a thing is wrong, it is not excused by its being commonly done.

2) If a thing is wrong, it should not be done, even if the perpetrator has a Get Out Of Hell Free card.

3) If people are sent to Hell by an infinite God for wrong behavior, and since every human being is given a choice of right or wrong behavior, then by definition there is room in Hell for every single human being, should they choose wrongly.

4) A variation on that point: if Hell has a limited capacity, then that might work to get you off on cold-blooded murder of a person who is walking around, too. Overcrowding, you know.

5) If you think that a vast number of people, by agreeing to all do a particular sin, can force Hell not to admit them, then why not do this for regular murder as well?

6) If large numbers doing a thing automatically make it into a good thing, does Islamic terrorism become a good thing, too? Or at least not a bad thing.

All in all, to make a remark like this to a person pondering a weighty decision with moral implications is the zenith of human crassness. Uggh.

My Inner Metrosexual Comes Screaming Out

My wife has a copy of the latest People magazine laying around and I noticed that Matthew McConaughey is the Sexiest Man Alive for 2005. In the issue, the magazine lists the winners of the honor for each year. For some reason, they did not name a winner for 1994. Can anyone explain why there was no Sexiest Man Alive for 1994?

I got's to know.

British PM Blair Moves to Right on Energy Policy, Endorses Nuclear Power

A story that has received all too little attention in recent weeks is the movement of British PM Tony Blair toward the American Right's positions on energy policy, positions that the Bush administration has held rhetorically but only fitfully in terms of action. (Although, for example, Bush has left Kyoto dead as it was when he entered office, and he has said the right things about it and other energy issues, his energy bill was loaded with pork, and he has done little to nothing to forward development of nuclear electric power in the United States.) Blair, by contrast, once supported Kyoto but has in recent months adopted the U.S. position.

(Kyoto would have set severe restrictions on U.S. emissions of chlorofluorocarbons, as well as those of other high-wealth nations, at great economic cost, while refraining from regulating emissions in highly polluting nations such as China and India, in an attempt to decrease global warming by a very small amount. The United States Senate voted down the bill to sign on to Kyoto during the Clinton administration by a margin of 95-0; then-President Clinton supported the bill but could not get a single vote for it in the Senate.)

The following excerpts from a forthcoming article in Environment and Climate News (which this author serves as senior editor) indicate the extent of Blair's change of policy:

In [recent weeks in] an editorial published in a leading British newspaper and in comments at a meeting of environmental ministers from the world’s leading economies, British Prime Minister Tony Blair distanced himself from the Kyoto Protocol and supported the longstanding U.S. position that developing nations must be included in any meaningful global warming treaties. Blair also agreed with the U.S. stance that technological development rather than top-down government mandates must drive carbon dioxide reductions.

“The difficulties with the current climate change debate,” Blair wrote in an October 30 editorial in the London Guardian and Observer (,3858,5321811-102273,00.html) titled “Get Real on Climate Change,” amount to “a reluctance to face up to reality and the practical action needed to tackle problems.”

“We must understand that neither issue [climate change and energy supply] can realistically be dealt with unless the US, the EU, Russia, Japan, China and India work together,” Blair explained. . . .

Blair noted that Kyoto will not do what its advocates claim, even if it had U.S. support:

Kyoto doesn't even stabilize [greenhouse gas emissions]. It won't work as intended, either, unless the U.S. is part of it. It's easy to take frustrations out on the Bush Administration but people forget that the Senate voted 95-0 against Kyoto when Bill Clinton was in the White House,” Blair observed. “We have to understand as well that, even if the U.S. did sign up to Kyoto, it wouldn't affect the huge growth in energy consumption we will see in India and China. China is building close to a new power station every week.”

“The first Kyoto commitment period ends in 2012,” Blair noted. “The challenge is what will come next. Will it be another round of division or what we need: a sound, rational, science-based unity, which ensures the right legally-binding framework to incentivize sustainable development?” Blair asked.

“None of this is going to happen unless the major developed and emerging nations sit down together and work it out, in a way that allows us all to grow, imposes no competitive disadvantage and enables the transfer of the technology needed for sustainable growth to take place,” Blair concluded.

Blair followed up on his editorial by telling the environmental ministers meeting in Britain, “The blunt truth about the politics of climate change is that no country will want to sacrifice its economy in order to meet this challenge. But all economies know that the only sensible, long-term way to develop is to do it on a sustainable basis”\ForeignBureaus\archive\200511\FOR20051102c.html).

Moving from problems to solutions, Blair has embraced the production of electricity through greater use of nuclear power, which his party has long opposed. A week ago, November 22, Blair told the House of Commons liaison committee, "With some of the issues to do with climate change, and you can see it with the debate about nuclear power, there are going to be difficult and controversial decisions Government has got to take. And in the end it has got to do what it believes to be right in the long-term interests of the country. . . . About energy security and supply that will mean issues that are bound to be extremely controversial."

Speaking at a conference today, Blair made his position explicit:

"The issue back on the agenda with a vengeance is energy policy. Round the world you can sense feverish re-thinking. Energy prices have risen. Energy supply is under threat. Climate change is producing a sense of urgency. I can today announce that we have established a review of the UK’s progress against the medium and long-term Energy White Paper goals. The Energy Minister, Malcolm Wicks, will be in the lead, with the aim of publishing a policy statement on energy in the early summer of 2006. It will include specifically the issue of whether we facilitate the development of a new generation of nuclear power stations."

The Times of London noted that Blair and his top advisors have already made their decision:

"Although the Government remains officially neutral on the outcome of the review, environment campaigners say that Mr Blair has become convinced that building new nuclear power stations is the only way to secure future energy needs."

This decision led to a comically ineffectual protest by two Greenpeace members at the conference, which infuriated conference attendees despite its lack of effect. One suspects that the protests will increase in the coming weeks as Britain gears up to increase its production of electricity through use of nuclear power.

Now, if only President Bush would take a similarly bold stand on the subject.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Pique Abu

Ahem! Why is no one mentioning the elephant in the room? The elephant's name, in case you missed his flicks, Beheading I, II, III et al, is Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. My new column in TAS addresses this question.

Here is an excerpt:

This perfectly limns the schism between the Republican and Democrat perspectives of the war in Iraq. If you ask Republicans why our forces are still on the ground in Iraq, they will explain: "Because of our great success in defeating Saddam, we need to midwife the emergence of a historic new democracy. Because of our great success in luring the terrorists out of their hidey-holes, we now get a chance to mow them down far from our home turf."

Ask a Democrat that question, he will aver: "Because of our great failure in mistaking a tinpot kvetch for a fearsome tyrant, we're stuck babysitting the various corrupt and violent elements of a provincial society. Because of our great failure in waking a sleeping giant, we have spawned a new generation of terrorists that would not otherwise have existed." Whether this originated in sincere ideology or partisan one-upmanship, the fact is that we are witnessing a radical divergence of worldviews; to be honest, the chasm between the two positions looks to be unbridgeable.

You might also recall that I addressed aspects of this in a previous article at JWR. But as Inspector Clouseau said: "I will not rest until this problem is sol-vedd."

More Shameless Self-Promotion

Here's a link to my recent short essay on why the feds ought not negotiate drug prices. Comments welcome.

Anti-American Crime Within Lady Liberty's Shadow

Thousands of tourists each day travel to Battery Park in lower Manhattan to buy ferry tickets for the Statue of Liberty. Many are imbued with patriotic fervor recognizing Lady Liberty as the symbol of American exceptionalism. Some consider it a site to behold, an entry way to the nation. Others buy their ferry tickets because the statue is on the itinerary.

When these folks enter the park they are flanked by dozens of hawkers, most are Senegalese selling knock-off Prada and Louis Vuitton pocketbooks; others are selling faux Rolex watches. They wait for the tourist buses on the north side of the park in plain view of the police. What they are selling is clearly illegal; moreover, many are illegal immigrants. Yet this practice has been going on for years uninterrupted by the authorities.

Yet that is not the worst of it. Unbeknownst to most of the peddlers and all of the consumers is that the revenue from this ostensibly illicit, but seemingly innocent trade, ends up in the hands of terrorist organizations.

The National Security Agency has been tracking this practice for some time well aware of the pernicious dimensions of this Battery Park commerce.

When I asked the Park Rangers if they were aware of what is going on they looked at me quizzically as if I were besotted. The local police contend that since the periphery of the park is federal land, they do not have jurisdiction over park matters. It turns out of course, that this isn’t entirely correct since the park itself is managed by the New York City Parks Department.

It is ironic that those coming to see the symbol of American liberty should be providing funds for organizations that want to destroy that liberty. Since the sales go on unabated, how is the consumer to know?

This is all happening several blocks from the World Trade Center site. In fact, the damaged dome that stood between the towers now stands as a permanent memorial for those who lost their lives on 9/11.

But the outpouring of patriotic sentiment after 9/11 which has encouraged many Americans to visit the perpetual flame in Battery Park, has been converted into a venal anti-American funding source. It is certainly horrible that a presumptive ally of the United States like Saudi Arabia is providing funds for al Qaeda, but it is an order of magnitude worse when patriotic Americans are being gulled into supporting terrorism at the very moment they wish to express national loyalty.

What can be done? First, it is imperative that police look into this matter instead of passing the buck. Second, this issue deserves publicity; these peddlers with knock-off products can be found in many other locations in New York and even on the streets of Rome, Paris and London. Third, fines can easily drive this trade out of business.

Surely some women may lament their inability to buy a fake Prada bag for $50, but they won’t sleep soundly if they know that money is being used to kill Americans and other innocent victims around the globe.

I should hastily note that most of the peddlers do not know what they are involved in. They are simply out to make a buck. In some sense, they are like the “mules” recruited to bring cocaine into the United States in pouches hidden in their stomach lining.

However, innocent or na├»ve they may be, their activity isn’t innocent. It is a threat to our very existence and it goes on as if it were a sale day at Macys. The police avert their gaze; the Park Rangers do not understand the issue and the consumers want a bargain.

This daily activity goes on within the shadow of Lady Liberty. No wonder I’ve noticed, when gazing at her impressive frame, that she has a tear rolling down her cheek.

Thinking 'Bout the Reality-Based Community

I was always struck a little weird by the leftist claim to inhabit "the reality-based community." Yesterday, I realized why. This is the same group of people who accept a basically Marxist methodology of economics and think that the solution to a recessed economy is to raise taxes. Reality-based community?

Listen, if you can't figure out why the Soviets failed and the socialism-lite nations of Western Europe have big problems with unemployment, reality is not the bottom line of your thought-life. Better to go back to the stoner thing.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Dubai Them A Wedding Gift

Here's the new government-sponsored wedding gift for the couple who has everything: testosterone for the bride and estrogen for the groom.

Ushpizin: A Review

You really must see this movie. I saw it tonight. It is simply fabulous.

To me it means something a bit different, that's true. First of all, I understand the Hebrew and do not need the subtitles. Secondly, the Orthodox Jewish world that I grew up in is radically different than what this film portrays. I grew up in the environment of the Lithuanian-type Yeshiva, a super-intellectual society following a very cerebral system in which scholarship is the be-all and pretty much the end-all. My experience was similar to what you might have if your father was a Princeton professor and you grew up on campus. This movie, by contrast, is based in the Hasidic world, where most of the focus is on emotion and faith. (The Hasidic movement began in Eastern Europe in the 1700s and created a bitter war among religious Jews that lasted for about a century. Now the two sides tolerate each other, more or less.) Thirdly, I did live in Israel and encountered some of the types of people described.

But trust me, wherever you are "coming from", you need to see this film. It is extremely well-acted by the four main stars, and some of the secondary characters were quite endearing as well. The husband and wife acting team who play the husband and wife communicate genuine love, and are totally comfortable in each other's space, but they never touch each other in any scene.

The insight into Hasidic life in Israel, particularly for the born-again types who are accepted into these incredibly conservative communities despite their secular - and occasionally criminal - backgrounds, is very profound. It is absolutely pitch-perfect in its accuracy. There were scenes there that must happen every day in virtually the same language.

The star, Shuli Rand, wrote the script and it is full of wit and pathos. The moments of love, the moments of disagreement between husband and wife, the conflicts between doing the right thing or not, the analysis of trying to identify the right thing, and even the moments where he takes you right to the edge of violence, all ring true and register very passionately.

And at the end of the day its message is truly universal, but I won't tell you what it is: see the movie. It opened in Miami on November 23rd; check your local listings.