The Long View 2006-06-06: Panspermia; China; 666; Terrorism

Fred Hoyle

Fred Hoyle

Panspermia is the kind of idea that seems to appeal to Aspergery scientists and science fiction writers, and pretty much no one else.

Panspermia; China; 666; Terrorism

There are no good explanations for the origin of life. There are two bad explanations, however: Intelligent Design and panspermia. If you believe this report, panspermia now seems a little less bad:

Specifically, Louis has isolated strange, thick-walled, red-tinted cell-like structures about 10 microns in size. Stranger still, dozens of his experiments suggest that the particles may lack DNA yet still reproduce plentifully, even in water superheated to nearly 600 degrees Fahrenheit . (The known upper limit for life in water is about 250 degrees Fahrenheit .)

This is the kind of finding that often does not survive the transition to a better laboratory, but it would make a certain amount of sense. Part of the problem with the origin question is that it is hard to see how delicate ensembles of DNA (or RNA, for that matter) could arise without the pre-existence of the cell walls that the DNA is supposed to generate. If earlier reproductive packages existed, however, perhaps packages that were not technically alive, they might have provided stable environments in which DNA/RNA evolution could occur.

As for the provenance of the spores, I think we would have to find them in space to be certain that they were not just bits of odd terrestrial chemistry.

* * *

Gordon Chang's thesis about the collapse of the Chinese financial sector, first published in 2001, are echoed in this analysis by George Friedman of Stratfor: An Inflection Point In China's Banking Problem:

"Underlying these reforms, however, is capital misallocation by the system. Nonperforming loans are the most conspicuous outcome of this misallocation, but our research shows that the much larger volume of loans to underperforming ventures that don't go bad but yield only negligible returns are potentially more costly to China's economy."...

There are numerous ways to measure the magnitude of the problem, but one of the simplest is this. China is said to hold nearly $819 billion in foreign reserves. Fitch's conservative estimate of the bad loan situation comes close to matching that number, and a more liberal calculation would swallow those reserves up and then some. Put very simply, the Chinese banking system is in deep trouble -- and with it, so is the Chinese economy....

What keeps China afloat is exports -- exports in ever greater numbers, and with ever-smaller profit margins.

As the piece points out, great nations do not normally implode because their banks become insolvent. More likely is a period of low growth, like the US in the 1930s and Japan in the 1990s. Does that imply substantial political change? It did in the US.

* * *

In addition to the birth of the Antichrist, yesterday (06-06-06) saw party primary day here in New Jersey. I don't have figures for turnout statewide, but I can tell you my own experience.

The polls are supposed to be open from 6:00 AM to 8:00 PM. A bit before 8:00 AM, I went to the polling place indicated on the ballot. No polls were operating, there or at the alternative site a block away that is sometimes used on short notice. I tried again at lunchtime. By then, the polls were open across the street from the alternative site. I announced I was Republican and voted. I was #2 for that party.

The incumbent Bob Menendez was nominated to run for US Senator as a Democrat and Tom Kean Jr. as a Republican. Why this universally anticipated outcome required an unattended election is a mystery.

* * *

And Speaking of 06-06-06, here is what Newsday had to say about that not-particularly-dread date, reminiscent though it is of the numerological encryption of the name of Antichrist as given in Revelation:

Soon, scalped chickens will fall from the sky.

Soon, the anti-Christ will rise to render the earth a mosh pit of despair; an empty, rotted stink hole of evil mayhem brought about by all things satanic. Doom will reign! Faces will melt! Alan Thicke will star in a new sitcom! The world will explode! Die! Die! Die!

Pish posh. The Antichrist is the Christmas Fool, the Lord of Misrule, and we find him in even the most respectable contexts:

Some themes were repeated year after year. The ceremony featured the President as the Lord of the Castle. A Lord of Misrule presided over the festivities, accompanied by a fool. Pages or Heralds announced the entrance of the Lord of Misrule. The Lord of Misrule always led a long procession into the Banquet hall.

Somedays I think we should think of the Tribulation as the sort of family Christmas gathering when no one is on speaking terms by December 27.

* * *

Obviously, the comments above understate the matter. Does this report do likewise?

(CBS) U.S. officials believe Canadian arrests over the weekend and three recent domestic incidents in the United States are evidence the U.S. will soon be hit again by a terrorist attack. Privately, they say, they'd be surprised if it didn't come by the end of the year...The next attack here, officials predict, will bear no resemblance to Sept. 11. The casualty toll will not be that high, the target probably not that big. We may not even recognize it for what it is at first, they say. But it's coming — of that they seem certain.

One of the "three incidents" the report refers to was a string of gas-station robberies in California. If that is what "terrorism" has come to mean, then how is the concept useful?

I am not comforted.

Copyright © 2006 by John J. Reilly

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