To celebrate the 100th anniversary of Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity, let’s ponder the fact that the young Barack Obama really did help Harvard Law professor Laurence Tribe write this embarrassingly sophomoric-sounding article. Here’s the abstract that reads like a Sokal Hoax:
Twentieth-century physics revolutionized our understanding of the physical world. Relativity theory replaced a view of the universe as made up of isolated objects acting upon one another at a distance with a model in which space itself was curved and changed by the presence and movement of objects. Quantum physics undermined the confidence of scientists in their ability to observe and understand a phenomenon without fundamentally altering it in the process. Professor Tribe uses these paradigm shifts in physics to illustrate the need for a revised constitutional jurisprudence. He argues that judges and lawyers need to recognize the profound impact that the law has in shaping the social background. This background is too often taken as given. Judges, in particular, cannot simply reach in and resolve disputes between individuals without permanently altering the legal and social space. The very act of judging alters the context and relationships being judged. Professor Tribe concludes that, while perspectives resembling those of modern physics have been integrated into some of the most important constitutional cases decided during the twentieth century, the current Supreme Court shows an unfortunate tendency toward relying too often on visions of society and knowledge that have long been rejected as overly formal and sterile.
According to Tribe, Obama did the physics parts for him, so you know it’s legit.
Update: Thanks to commenter Handle, here’s the full paper, which indeed thanks Barack Obama. Here’s the official “Summary:”
… Early in our nation’s history it was commonplace, for example, to say that the 1787 Constitution was Newtonian in design, with its carefully counterpoised forces and counterforces, its checks and balances, structured like a “machine that would go of itself” to meet the crises of the future. … The dissenters, in what I would praise as an admirably post-Newtonian insight, concluded that it belied reality to contend that the state had done nothing with respect to Joshua. … From a post-Newtonian perspective, Boddie is the more dramatic case and provides the stronger parallel to DeShaney. … B. The Tentative Emergence of a Post-Newtonian Paradigm … This school board focus creates the perception that white flight is an insoluble problem. … The constitutional violation Kennedy identifies is all but invisible unless one takes a post-Newtonian perspective. … The first is empirical — which paradigm best explains the available “data”? Although the mathematics needed to work it all out is complex, Einstein’s theory is not only simpler in basic conception and more elegant in design than Newton’s; it makes better predictions about a number of real-world phenomena — including the degree to which a star’s light ray that passes in the sun’s vicinity appears to be deflected by the sun’s mass when visible during a solar eclipse. … The Einsteinian paradigm is, in this way, more progressive than the Newtonian paradigm. … In this way, the post Newtonian legal paradigm is more progressive than the Newtonian