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Monday, July 28, 2008

Cosmic know-nothingism

At The Space Review, Amitai Etzioni serves up some red herrings:

NASA, and the people who live off of its grants and contracts, keep telling the media that we may find life on Mars. Many people understand this to mean some civilization with which we could ally ourselves against the bad guys. If NASA would disclose that it is looking for some organic material we would be better prepared to have an honest discussion about how much the nation should pay for such a possible discovery. The same holds for claims that we learn about the beginning of the universe and expand our humanity and other such bull.

First off, I have doubts as to how much public support for Mars exploration is based on hopes of finding "some civilization with which we could ally ourselves against the bad guys." In many years of writing and reading about space, I've never come across anybody stating such a hope. Second, I find it just sad (as Ross Perot might say) that Etzioni dismisses learning about the beginning of the universe as "bull." I can't tell if he thinks there is no prospect of learning anything about that through space technology (in which case he should take a look here) or if he thinks the subject is not worth caring about. Either way, it's a crude and ill-informed view.

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