Friday, February 9, 2007

Astonishing Power and Brilliance

Two galaxies similar to our own Milky Way collide in space. The collision would be catastrophic for any inhabitants of either of these galaxies:

Fortunately, contrary to popular conceptions about the existence of life in space and even the opinions of many scientists, there is reason to believe that of all the billions of galaxies in the universe and all the trillions of stars in those galaxies, sentient life probably exists near only one - our sun.

Some scoff at this notion. The universe is so incredibly vast and there are so many stars that some of them have to have planets like earth, they reason. But books like Ward and Brownlee's Rare Earth make a good case for the absolute uniqueness of earth as a suitable environment for higher life forms.

It may well be that no other galaxy, no other star, no other planet possesses the characteristics necessary to permit life to emerge and perdure. The entire universe in all of it's vastness may exist just so that we, the inhabitants of this tiny speck orbiting an average star, can. In other words, it's possible that the universe has to be as big as it is and as full of matter as it is in order for life to exist anywhere in it.

Assume that the conventional figure of about 14 billion years for the age of the universe is correct, and assume, too, that scientists pretty much correct about how stars are formed. Suppose further that the universe did, in fact, originate in a Big Bang.

Following this initial creation event the universe would have expanded rapidly. During that expansion stars were formed, lived for millions or billions of years, and then exploded like this star did:

While it lived the star was producing in its core many of the elements necessary for life. When it finally exploded many other elements were formed as well and all of them were spewed into space. Eventually, about 4.5 billion years ago, a small portion of this debris coalesced to form the earth and the rest of the planets in our solar system.

The whole time this process was going on the cosmos was expanding. Thus, life could arise on earth only after the necessary elements had been formed and only after billions of years of cosmic history had elapsed. The universe then, if this scenario is correct, has to be as old as it is, and thus as big as it is, in order for us to be here at all.

God could, of course, have created the universe complete in an instant, but if He chose to do it the way scientists think He did, what an extraordinarily extravagant act of creation He undertook just to eventually produce a world suitable for us to live in.

And what astonishing power and brilliance it must have taken.


Talking the Talk, Declining the Walk

Much is being made of Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi's request for access to a military jet to fly her, her staff and family to California on the weekends. The cost of the plane to taxpayers would be $300,000 round trip, and the plane she has requested would dump thousands of pounds more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere than the plane used by her predecessor, Dennis Hastert. It has also been pointed out that her ostensible reason for wanting the larger jet, the ability to fly non-stop without having to refuel and risk terrorist attacks in airports, makes no sense since any military jet would be refueling at air force bases.

To compound the embarrassment, her colleague in the House, John "offer me the bribe later" Murtha, reportedly threatened the Pentagon with budget cuts if Pelosi doesn't get her plane. Whatever the facts of the matter, this is not the first time Pelosi's claims to be a champion of the working class and the environment are out of phase with what she actually does.

For example, News Max offers some snippets from a book by Peter Schweizer titled Do As I Say (Not As I Do): Profiles in Liberal Hypocrisy. One of the excerpts says this about Ms. Pelosi:

Pelosi claims to be a staunch union supporter, and along with her husband has received the Cesar Chavez award from the United Farm Workers Union, notes Schweizer.

Unions are, in her words, "fighting for America's working families" and battling "the union-busting, family-hurting" Bush administration. But Schweizer uncovered that a $25 million Northern California vineyard the Pelosis own is a non-union shop!

The congresswoman is the top recipient among members of Congress in campaign contributions from labor unions, and has received more money from the Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees International Union than any other member of Congress in the last several election cycles.

But in addition to the wine business, the Pelosis own a large stake in the exclusive Auberge du Soleil hotel in Rutherford, Calif. The hotel has more than 250 employees, but once again, Schweizer found, it is strictly a non-union shop.

The Pelosis are also partners in a restaurant chain called Piatti, which has 900 employees.

"But a union card is not required to work there bussing tables, washing dishes, serving guests or preparing food," Schweizer wrote in NewsMax Magazine.

"As with Auberge du Soleil, at Piatti the Pelosis' commitment to organized labor ends at the front door."

Pelosi has also demonstrated hypocrisy on the environment. "With us," she proclaims, "the environment is not an issue - it's an ethic. It's a value."

[But] One of her largest investments is a private partnership called Lions Gate Limited, which operates the CordeValle Golf Club and Resort in San Martin, Calif.

To get a permit to build the facility, the partners promised to build a "public course" providing considerable access to non-members, and to abide by several environmental requirements to ensure that there would be minimal ecological damage.

But after the facility opened, the county's Planning Commission found that the golf course was in fact private - and the club had "ignored" many of its permit requirements concerning the environment!

Perhaps, some of what she's upbraided for in this article is beyond her control, but I recall how the media crucified Newt Gingrich because he had asked to be able to deplane Air Force One at the front of the craft, but the Clinton people forced him to leave at the back. Newt felt he had been deliberately dissed by the Clinton staff and was reportedly a little miffed. Whether he really was or not, I don't know, but the media savaged him for days for what they said was childish pique and arrogant vanity. So what is the media saying about Nancy Pelosi's "arrogance"?


Tubing Downstream

Hillary Clinton doesn't need a weatherman to tell her which way the wind's blowing, just a couple of pollsters. NewsMax cites Thursday's lead editorial in the Wall Street Journal which chronicles Senator Clinton's shift on the war in Iraq. There's nothing wrong with changing one's mind as events unfold, of course, but Senator Clinton would have us all believe that her current position has been her position all along when, of course, it hasn't:

On October 10, 2002, Clinton spoke to the Senate in favor of a use-of-force resolution authorizing the invasion of Iraq, saying: "The facts that have brought us to this fateful vote are not in doubt."

On December 15, 2003, when it was clear there were no large stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, Clinton's support was unwavering. "I was one who supported giving President Bush the authority, if necessary, to use force," she told the Council on Foreign Relations. "We have no option but to stay involved and committed."

On April 20, 2004, Clinton told CNN's Larry King that she did not "regret giving the president the authority," noting that Saddam Hussein "had been a real problem for the international community for more than a decade."

In October 2005, amid growing anti-war sentiment, Clinton still told the Village Voice: "I don't believe it's smart to set a date for withdrawal . . . I don't think it's the right time to withdraw."

By November 2005, Hillary was softening her stance, saying in a letter to constituents: "If Congress had been asked [to authorize the war], based on what we know now, we never would have agreed."

On December 18, 2006, Clinton went even further, saying on the "Today" show: "I certainly wouldn't have voted that way."

On January 13 of this year, Clinton spoke from Baghdad about President Bush's call for a troop surge: "I don't know that the American people or the Congress at this point believe this mission can work."

On January 17, Clinton called for a cap on the number of U.S. troops in Iraq, and suggested withholding funds for the Iraqi government.

Finally, on January 27, Clinton hit the campaign trail in Iowa and demanded that the president "extricate our country from this before he leaves office."

Ms. Clinton went from the view that we have no option but to stay involved and committed in Iraq to the view that we have to get out as soon as possible. That's an odd way to remain committed. Her position on the war seems to track the opinion of the American people. Like someone floating down the river in an inner tube, she goes where the currents of popular opinion take her. That may be good politics, but it's lousy leadership.