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Why Have a Space Program?

Mark Whittington of Curmudgeon’s Corner spreads the “colonization meme”.

I think he’s right in his argument that we need to change the purpose of going into space from ivory-tower data-gathering to the nuts and bolts of spreading civilization. Rationalizing and hiding what we really want behind the fig leaves of “exploration” and “science” and “space medicine” will only get us more exploration and science and space medicine…not settlements.

Cynically, though, I would expect that changing the goal from science to spreading civilization would simply make the critics change the form of their opposition. Instead of questioning whether humans should go rather than robots, they would question whether human civilization should be allowed to “taint” another planet — that is, whether human civilization is worthy of such expansion, or even the sort of self-preservation-by-budding that Mark (among others) suggests.

The movement into space is a human activity, which both depends on and exalts our uniquely human abilities (reason and creativity among them), and that is at the root of their opposition, and not so easily swept away by a unilateral change in the terms of the debate. It will simply morph into a different form.

4 comments to Why Have a Space Program?

  • Mark R. Whittington

    I think you’re quite correct that however we justify a space effort, there will be opposition. However I think that a space settlement effort is something that is so compelling that it can, given some good marketing, attract far more support than opposition. And remember, I suggest that whereas “science” and “exploration” are nice to have things which can be deferred at any time, spreading human civiliation to the heavens is necessary to preserve both human civilization and human freedom.

  • T.L. James

    I agree. As I said, I was just being cynical.

    Of course, in trying to market the idea of colonization, the space advocacy community should keep in mind the “root cause” of the more outspoken opposition to human activities in space…namely, the opposition to human activity period. Whether we try to fight their arguments, or whether we actively ignore these arguments and thereby deprive them of any impact, it helps to know what the agenda of your(philosophical) enemy is. I’d hate to see space advocates jump onto the colonization issue, only to be blindsided by the type of arguments I described in my post.

    Hell, I’m reluctant to use the term “colonization” precisely because, being a term with historical baggage, it could be used as the basis of an emotional appeal to oppose our goals. But, it gets the general point across better than “settlement”, so I use it.

  • That’s an argument I’d much rather have than the fruitless man vs robot one. Most people are sensible enough to see the opposition as malarkey. If we could even get such a public discussion going, it would be a huge breakthrough.

  • T.L. James

    Bring it on.