Thursday, December 8, 2011

BO and TR

President Obama has in the past invoked the memory a number of former presidents to set Americans at ease over his plans to "transform America." Lincoln, Reagan, FDR, Truman, even George W. Bush (although never Jimmy Carter with whom he's most comparable) have all been trotted out as examples to reassure us that the path toward crony socialism Mr. Obama has set us upon is really nothing radical.

Most recently he traveled to Osawatomie, Kansas to summon the shade of Teddy Roosevelt, perhaps the first of the progressive presidents, to validate his march toward an all-encompassing role for government bureaucrats in the lives of Americans.

National Review's editors mark the occasion with a fine "compare and contrast" of Mr. Obama and TR, and though they're no fans of either, they give us a fine skewering of the pretensions of a man of Mr. Obama's modest accomplishments seeking to clothe himself in the mantle of Teddy Roosevelt.
It is strange that Pres. Barack Obama has chosen to channel the spirit of Pres. Theodore Roosevelt, the president he least resembles. Teddy Roosevelt was a rough-riding, safari-loving, war-adoring imperialist (ask the Panamanians), the man who sent the “Great White Fleet” on a round-the-world tour to make it clear to American rivals hither and yon that they had better mind their own business or face the wrath of a budding world power. Barack Obama was an undistinguished law professor and legislative back-bencher who once gave a very good speech.

Roosevelt wrote 18 books on subjects ranging from naval warfare to naturalism, and not one soft-focus psychological self-examination about his tender feelings about his estranged father. Like President Obama, President Roosevelt was the recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize. Unlike President Obama, he earned it, having successfully negotiated the end of the Russo-Japanese War.

Not exactly mirror images.

And yet Barack Obama, the great indoorsman and man of inaction, whose only instinct when faced with a national crisis is to deliver yet another speech, has trundled himself down to Osawatomie, Kan., where TR, by that point an ex-president, made his famous “New Nationalism” address, to try to get a little of that Bull Moose magic to rub off on himself.

Color us skeptical, but we can see why TR’s New Nationalism might appeal to Barack Obama: It was an early instantiation of what our National Review colleague Jonah Goldberg has called, after H. G. Wells, “liberal fascism,” the central-planning, top-down, intrusively managerial approach to national government that has been the Left’s model for generations.
The editors go on to give us an incisive evaluation of Mr. Obama's speech at Osawatomie. It's worth reading. Here's a snippet:
President Obama’s speech, like President Roosevelt’s, was economically illiterate. Like TR, he juxtaposed the tycoons and the middle class, and committed the classic blunder of conflating the success of the former with the difficulties of the latter. The Democrat carried into office on a wave of Wall Street money called for a crackdown on Wall Street shenanigans even as he packs his administration with Wall Street veterans, while the Washington establishment’s perverse relations with Wall Street, and, especially, with the mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, mighty contributors to the housing bubble, go unchallenged. It’s only greed when somebody else is making the money.
The NR editors conclude by noting that Mr. Obama's theme for the coming campaign appears to be "inequality", but, as the writers observe, Americans are not suffering from inequality. They're suffering from unemployment which, if the hundreds of thousands of people who have given up looking for work are taken into account, is pushing 11%.

Mr. Obama will try to blame the rich for this very troublesome state of affairs, but it's hard to see how it's their fault. On the other hand, it's easy to see how a bloated regulatory state which, with every new tax and regulation it imposes on business diminishes the incentive of employers to hire new employees, is a major contributor to the problem.

Back to the Drawing Board

Evolution News and Views has an interesting report of research on the metal zirconium that suggests that oxygen levels in the earth's early atmosphere were similar to what they are today.

This is interesting because pretty much every naturalistic theory of abiogenesis (the creation of life from non-living matter on the early earth) requires that oxygen be absent from the atmosphere since oxygen destroys organic compounds that are exposed to it for any length of time. That's why nutritionists encourage us to consume plenty of anti-oxidants. If life emerged through purely natural processes the first organic molecules could not have been exposed to oxygen.

Here's an excerpt from the ENV piece:
If the atmosphere has oxygen (or other oxidants) in it, then it is an oxidizing atmosphere. If the atmosphere lacks oxygen, then it is either inert or a reducing atmosphere. Think of a metal that has been left outside, maybe a piece of iron. That metal will eventually rust. Rusting is the result of the metal being oxidized. With organic reactions, such as the ones that produce amino acids, it is very important that no oxygen be present, or it will quench the reaction.

Scientists, therefore, concluded that the early earth must have been a reducing environment when life first formed (or the building blocks of life first formed) because that was the best environment for producing amino acids. The atmosphere eventually accumulated oxygen, but life did not form in an oxidative environment.
So, if measurements are accurate which show high levels of oxygen in the atmosphere from almost the very birth of the planet, then we're left with two explanations for abiogenesis: either the first life originated elsewhere and migrated to earth or it didn't originate as a result of natural processes alone, but received some impetus from an intelligent source.

No doubt the finding reported in ENV will give new energy to theories that life originated elsewhere and hitched a ride to earth in asteroids. Any physicalist hypothesis, no matter how unlikely, no matter how untestable, is preferable among modern thinkers to the hypothesis that there's a Mind behind the origin of life.

The irony is that almost every contemporary discovery about biology and cosmology supports the latter and makes the former more difficult to believe.