Applying Darwin

We’re a year into the Obama Administration, but the changing of the calendar brings no relief from the burdens we carry forward. Unemployment still wreaks its havoc among the working class, pirates and terrorists still lurk in the shadows, and above the shortage of doctors and the inevitability of tax hikes loons the terrible specter of global warming and Mayan-predicted catastrophe.

With the gravity of the troubles before us, some might be inclined to pray for a miracle, or at the very least, for guidance or strength. But prayer has fallen out of fashion; most expressions of faith have vanished from public life like Christ from Christmas. The world has moved on; as a society we look at faith as a quaint tradition from the past, something amusing and nostalgic, a Frank Capra movie, fun to visit for a while as long as we recognize that it’s just fantasy. Science, not religion, informs our worldview; today, thanks to science, we’re no longer bound to look heavenward for the answers to the challenges we face. Today science, and not Revelations, foretells our approaching doom. The names of Saints are forgotten, but we remember the names of our scientists: Galileo, Newton, Mendel, Copernicus, Darwin; names spoke with reverence in the laboratory and the classroom, revolutionary men with revolutionary ideas, men who transformed the world.

Galileo and Copernicus showed us that Mankind isn’t the center of the Universe. The Earth revolves around the sun, not the other way around, and the sun is just one star in a vast sea of them. Later scientists built on their theories, and now science tells us that the Universe itself came into fiery being in one huge explosion of matter. When we look to the sky for answers, we don’t see the wonder of Creation. We see the beautiful remains of the ultimate cosmic accident.

In 1831, Charles Darwin set off on a voyage that ultimately changed the way human beings view the world. His months aboard the Beagle led to the theory of natural selection, the notion that the creatures best suited for their environment will breed and the traits passed on to their children will ensure the species continued success. Those unsuited for the environment would not breed, and traits detrimental to the success of the species would be eliminated.

Darwin brought forth the notion that living species are dynamic and changeable. They have the capacity to adapt to alterations in their environment, and through those adaptations, survive. In the centuries since Darwin undertook his voyage, the theory of natural selection has taken root and is generally accepted as fact.

Except, of course, by government.

Despite what your neighborhood Atheist might tell you, government is more adept at tossing natural law aside than any other organization. While government at every level takes great pains to ensure that science is taught at publically funded schools, they pointedly ignore scientific principle when making policy.

Take for example Congress’s response to the financial meltdown. Nature teaches us that organisms without the necessary tools to survive in a given environment will be replaced by those which can adapt. Nature does not reward incompetence. TARP programs and corporate bailouts do not exist in the wild. Tyrannosaurus Rex wasn’t too big to fail, nor was the Wooly Mammoth. Had the Federal Government embraced the principles of natural selection, the weak banks would have been eliminated along with the risky practices that weakened them. Those banks whose practices enabled them to shield themselves from the worst of the meltdown would survive, grow strong, and meet the demands created by the dissolution of the failed banks. The end result would be a generally stronger financial sector.

Natural Selection, it seems, is fine for the wilderness and the classroom, but has no place in the boardroom. The Federal Government is smarter than the Universe. In a sweeping stroke of genius so advanced it seems like magic, the Treasury Department determined that propping up incompetent and unsuccessful organizations would somehow lead to a stronger financial sector. The Fed’s magic bullet never quite found its mark. Unemployment skyrocketed, leading to more foreclosures. Banks continued to fail, even as the government rewarded staggering incompetence with billions of rapidly depreciating dollars.

The problem, it seemed, wasn’t incompetence. It was a lack of central planning and regulation. Remember that The Universe, according to science, came about without any sort of regulation at all, and despite the utter chaos of the Big Bang, we can look up and see a panoply of stars arranged in beautiful, mathematically perfect order. But what’s good for the Milky Way is apparently not good enough for a place where people keep their money.

Pointedly ignoring the principle of natural selection didn’t ultimately set the United States back on the path to prosperity. Regardless of how many bad business models the Federal Government propped up, the economy hasn’t gotten much better. People stopped spending, banks stopped lending, businesses stopped hiring, and the nation fell into what we’re now calling the Great Recession. Congress sprang into action with a hastily written and quickly passed “Stimulus Package”, which the President signed and the People opposed.

Ignoring Darwin wasn’t enough. The Federal Government decided to add Newton’s laws of motion and the laws of thermodynamics to the scientific principles officially ignored when deciding how to rescue our helpless business leaders from their own incompetence.

The First Law of Thermodynamics teaches us that energy exists in many forms, but it can’t be created or destroyed. The Second Law, also known as Entropy, teaches us that “in all energy exchanges, if no energy enters or leaves the system, the potential energy of the state will always be less than that of the initial state.” In plainer terms, there’s no such thing as a free lunch. If you want something to move, you need to apply energy, and that energy has to come from somewhere.

In financial terms, it means that there’s no way for a nation to spend itself out of a recession. But the Federal Government is smarter than the Universe, and so they passed the American Recovery and Investment Act of 2009, the goal of which was to spend money the government did not have on projects that would improve America, provide jobs, and pull America out of the economic gutter.

The economic gutter was deeper than the government anticipated. Although the government touted a large amount of jobs “created or saved” the unemployment rate remains above ten percent. The cost of all those saved jobs can be summed up in Newton’s Second Law: For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. For every dollar spent by the federal government, one dollar must be removed from the private sector in the form of higher taxes and lower purchasing power. The private sector is the engine that creates wealth and prosperity; an expanding federal government must necessarily result in a commensurate reduction in the private sector, and therefore a reduction in the nation’s ability to create wealth. The national debt is now 12 trillion dollars and climbing, with no relief in sight. Science tells us that a body in motion tends to stay in motion, until acted upon by an outside force. The outside force that can send the national balance sheet back toward solvency will have to be enormous.

Though centrally planned banks aren’t functioning very well, the government still believes it is smarter than the Universe. Regardless of what the people say they want, regardless of existing law, regardless of the laws of physics and thermodynamics, Congress is working hard to institute not one, but two grand new experiments in central planning. Their first goal is to centrally plan the health of America’s citizens, and since that isn’t large enough or complex enough to occupy their time, they intend to centrally plan the weather as well, in order to combat climate change with a cap-and-trade carbon scheme.

The Federal Government is smarter than the Universe. Very soon federal agencies will set interest rates, carbon levels, and the wages of doctors and bankers. All the uncertainties of life will be eliminated under the unblinking and eternally vigilant eye of our Fathers in Washington. Debt will become wealth. The insidious threat of global warming will melt into a cool breeze and be blown away on green-powered federal regulations, and prompt, effective medical attention will enable every citizen to live happily and long. Central Planning, rejected by the scientific discoveries of Charles Darwin, Galileo, and Isaac Newton will by some miracle bring about the Golden Age of Mankind that will last a thousand years.

Religion isn’t dead. We’ve just been praying to the wrong God.