By Donald B. Ardell
President Obama Is Wonderful But I Wish He Would Stop Asking God To Interfere In Our Affairs
On April 27, 2009, President Barack Obama gave a splendid speech to the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering and the Institute of Medicine. I'm an unabashed admirer of the president and I'm delighted with his performance to date. I confess - I'm a fan. Please take this into account when reading my recommendation for better endings to future speeches.
In describing the complex set of challenges America faces today, the president told the scientists that he will double federal investments in science-agency budgets. He said science is essential for our prosperity, security, health, environment and quality of life - more so than ever before. The president promised to seek increases in medical and energy research. He said he would also urge tax credits to encourage companies to pursue scientific breakthroughs. All this and more would amount to what the president termed the largest commitment to scientific research and innovation in American history.
It was no surprise that he got rousing applause throughout the talk.
Mr. Obama also criticized previous administrations that undermined scientific research by politicizing it because they cared more about advancing predetermined ideological agendas. You might be forgiven if you suspect the president had the Bush Administration in mind.
Overall, Mr. Obama's remarks were a testament to his commitment to reason, evidence and free inquiry. It is clear he wants to advance the sciences of biology, genetics, medicine, biomedicine, physics, chemistry, computer and environmental science and engineering. The president seeks to restore science to its rightful place. He stated, Under my administration, the days of science taking a back seat to ideology are over. Our progress as a nation - and our values as a nation - are rooted in free and open inquiry. To undermine scientific integrity is to undermine our democracy.
All this was viewed as a welcome change from the recent past, but there was more. In closing, the president added this: At root, science forces us to reckon with the truth as best as we can ascertain it. Some truths fill us with awe. Others force us to question long held views. Science cannot answer every question; indeed, it seems at times the more we plumb the mysteries of the physical world, the more humble we must be. Science cannot supplant our ethics, our values, our principles, or our faith, but science can inform those things, and help put these values, these moral sentiments, that faith, to work - to feed a child, to heal the sick, to be good stewards of this earth.
Well, who could ask for anything more?
Not to be ungrateful or anything, but there is one thing. I have a suggestion. Please reconsider those endings. No, not the next-to-last part (be good stewards of this earth) - no, not the parting thank you to the assembled scientists (Thank you all for your past, present, and future discoveries). That was nice. If only President Obama got off the stage at this point. Alas, he had one more zinger that he just could not resist. Oh Lordie, here it comes. I can imagine the gasps that must have come from the scientists: Here is the ending. Prepare to be dismayed: God bless you and may God bless the United States of America.
Holy Spaghetti Monster! Great Zeus above! Oh Holy Baal!
Just what in the name of science does that mean - God bless the USA? There are tens of thousands of gods. There are Norse gods, Roman gods, Greek gods, Celtic gods and so on. There are gods of war, of love and sexuality and everything else you could think of. There are even gods of science.. Hermes was the god of science for the Greeks; Athena/Minerva did the trick for the Romans. Since Mr. Obama was speaking to scientists, it might have been better to end with Hermes bless you and may Athena/Minerva bless the United States of America.
So, which god is the president summoning and what exactly or even what more or less would a divine blessing entail? Even today, there are competing gods - surely the god the Taliban invoke when beating women can't be the same god Mr. Obama had in mind! (On the other hand, maybe the Taliban god and the god of Pat Robertson might be related.)
How does the blessing thing work, anyway? The United States of America has been around for over two centuries - if there's a god, and if he blesses nations, isn't it likely he blessed us enough already? Does god pay special attention to US presidents who ask for blessings? If so, how many times does a president have to ask? Must President Obama utter this line every time he makes a speech? (Congressmen and Congresswomen also do it, as do governors, sheriffs, mayors, Rotary and all other service club officers, VFW officials and so on). Can there ever be enough calls for God to bless the United States of America? Does our blessing greed have no limit? Please - can we consider a moratorium or something on requests for god to bless the United States of America, for God's sake if not for common sense?