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January 12, 2004


If there's one thing a person can be assured of in journalism, it's that when a columnist starts an article with "Iím not one for conspiracy theories..." they are about to ascribe to a corker, one that even Fox Mulder would shudder to be associated with.

Consider Patti Davis Of Newsweek, who, four Dowd-like paragraphs into a column on the Bush space initiative, accuses the President of planning to abandon the Earth.

But I draw the line at disposing of an entire planet. I could bring up the cost of a moon-Mars mission--according to the Associated Press, the ultimate price tag could exceed $750 billion--but itís the underlying motive that I find most bothersome. Are we just going to give up on all those species that we are in the process of eliminating? It would seem so; it hardly seems like we have enough money to care for the Earth at the same time weíre colonizing outer space.

And then there are the images of Mars itself. Dirt, rocks, not a tree or a babbling brook in sight. From the past photos of moon landings, that place doesnít look much better. The moon looks much more beautiful from right here on earth. Is the idea that, after a few years of wandering around in the dust, people will forget what a tree or a meadow looks like?

Screw space, Patti. If he's hell-bent on abandoning the planet, you should take him to task for all the money we've spent chasing Arabs around the globe. What's the point, we're leaving anyway, right?

While Patti's childish belief in the abilities of NASA to both terraform and colonize Mars by the end of a (presumed) second Bush term is very touching, it's also stunning in its sheer ignorance, so much so that I wonder if Ms. Davis isn't so much dumb as she is incredibly ham-handed in her use of sarcasm.

I am not trying to throw a damper on our curiosity about outer space, although I must admit itís never ignited my daydreamsÖbut isnít living on Mars taking things a little too far?

Okay, I'm convinced. She's ignorant. Only a person profoundly uninterested in science would admit to never having even daydreamed about space.

It's not that there's a case to be made against spending the billions it will take to explore Mars. It boils down to "We need the money here on Earth," and it's been making the rounds since the Apollo missions, if not before. It's not one with which I agree, but given the initial thrust of her article it was the one I expected.

Needless to say, I was not expecting an accusation that George wants to lead us off the planet like a Space Age Moses.

I'm still dumbfounded at the scientific illiteracy Patti allows herself to display. It's not just the woeful stupidity of the Mars colonization theory, it's statements like "Global warming is going to be our legacy, and our demise." As if the current warming trend is going to wipe out the species! No one thinks this, not even those who buy the human induced theory of global warming hook, line and sinker. Many, many species are certainly threatened with extinction by global warming, though for some reason the names of the alleged thousands never appear on a list. We are not one of them, for the same reason rats and cockroaches are not. The human race is simply too adaptable. Any species that has survived the last 200,000 years of climate change is not going to sweat the current heat wave.

What threatens us as a species, far more than global warming, is ignorance. By that measurement, Patti Davis is a weapon of mass destruction.

Time to implement sanctions against Newsweek, I should think.

Posted by Bigwig at January 12, 2004 04:51 PM | TrackBack
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Of all the anti-space arguments there are, the one that drives me absolutely stark raving wonko is "we need to spend the money here on Earth."

Apparently these morons think that Bush intends to take huge bales and bushels of cash and launch them into space. They can't quite grasp the notion that all the money WILL be spent here on Earth. The government will take all that money and dump it right into the US economy -- specifically, the aerospace and other high-tech industries.

It's been proven again and again that the space program more than paid for itself in spinoffs. The life-support technology has been a cornucopia of advances for medical technology (the remote life sensors alone probably would have paid for a couple Apollo missions); the huge push for miniaturization of electronics gave us, eventually, cell phones, MP3 players, and PCs, among a good 12 zillion other examples; and chemistry got a huge boost in the quest for better fuels and ways to generate oxygen.

And don't even THINK of forgetting about satellites, from HBO to GPS to... lord knows what else.

Argue against the space program all you want, but do not even briefly consider using an economic argument. You WILL lose, and it will NOT be pretty.


Posted by: Jay Tea at January 12, 2004 08:32 PM

What threatens us as a species is "our own mad cleverness."

Posted by: meg at January 12, 2004 08:53 PM

I've run across one person like that. He asked me to explain how the shuttle could carry enough fuel to keep the rockets burning for the whole time they were in orbit. To him, that was proof enough that the whole space program was a scam.

Posted by: Ted at January 13, 2004 10:08 AM

"I think Mars is icky and expensive, so let's not go there." Rrrright. Sounds vaguely like a talking Barbie that got Mattel into a bit of trouble.

The same argument can be made against medical research, but I'm guessing Ms. Davis is trying (and failing miserably) to be extremely sarcastic.

Posted by: Steve Gigl at January 13, 2004 11:52 AM
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