Cancer On The Universe Response

My, I seem to have hit some nerves in my Fox News piece today (it’s simply a repeat of the post a few posts down, about how we’re supposedly too sinful to go into space).

Here are a couple of the emails that I’ve received:

In response to your response to Lori M’s letter, your missing the point and your way of thinking is part of the problem not the cure.

?If I have to explain you wouldn’t understand.? AND I wouldn’t waste my time trying.

Well, that’s certainly a persuasive and compelling argument. Now I know I’m wrong for sure…

Holy cow. I started reading your article ( and your ridicule of Lori M. disgusted me so much, I had to stop. You article did not appear to be one of informing your readers the importance of space travel or the benefits of exploration in general. Instead, your article appeared to be a disgruntled writer that had the forum in which he could bash someone. It seemed rather personal to me.

Personal? I don’t even know her. I was attacking her attitude, not her person.

Sarcastic and rather childish. “Newsflash Lori”, what was THAT? Why not put her email address in the article along with her phone number and address and ask your readers to send her some hate mail and prank phone calls?

Because that would be wrong, and you would no doubt have castigated me severely for it (not to mention that Fox would, appropriately, have never published it if I had). But I find it bizarre that you seem to be taking me to task for something that I didn’t do.

You came across very much as an ass.

Well, that’s obviously a subjective thing. Like the above emailer, you come across to me as someone who doesn’t actually have any valid arguments about what I wrote, and are thus reduced to spurious charges of childishness, and insults.

I’ll keep this thread going as I get other emails today. As I said, I think I really hit a nerve.

[Update at 9:53 AM PDT]

Just got a follow up from the first emailer above:

If we spent a fraction of the time, effort and money that is spent on the space program developing our own energy sources in this country we wouldn?t have to kiss middle eastern ass and could avoid most of the mess we find ourselves in today. Duh.

I suspect that this person hasn’t got clue one about how much we spend on either. Duh, himself.

[Update at 10:19 AM PDT]

I got a more reasoned response from Christopher Watkins:

How could you not even wish to take into account any sense of responsibility or concern for our effect on environments when discussing the possible populating of other planets?

I don’t believe that I ever expressed that view.

It frightens me how easily you can dismiss the idea that human beings should be concerned with damage they cause to the place they live.

I didn’t dismiss that idea. In fact, what I dismissed was the notion that we are incapable of doing that. I, unlike Lori M., believe that we are capable, and that we should, and will be concerned.

Are you of the school of thought that proposes a “slash and burn” and careless disregard for our environments because we can always move onto to a new one?


I would certainly not say the space travel is “not ethical”, but I would say that it could lead to such a huge step in our future that it is of the utmost importance to evaluate all aspects, included ethical and moral theories. If we were ever required to relocate to another planet I would hope the people in charge are not driven by reckless abandon and careless expansion as you suggest. Interest how you describe someone discussing integrity, ethics and responsibility as “meek”.

She wasn’t discussing any of those things. She was simply accusing all humanity of lacking them, and therefore being unworthy to leave the planet. I vehemently disagree.

[Update at 11:41 AM PDT]

A Tom Dunn writes:

You take yourself and the human race way to seriously. I’m sure that most concientous survivors would gladly exchange their existence for a more responsible breed of human.

I’d argue with this, if I could figure out what it means. Or then again, maybe I wouldn’t. It depends on what it means.

[Update at 12:19 PM PDT]

Greg Fuller throws out yet another strawman:

How many people do you know that like starlings? How about house sparrows?

Coyotes? Crows? Hyenas? How about cockroaches? I just think it is interesting that men most despise those species that are successful in spite of us and because of their tenacity and adaptability, are most like us. All the creatures of the world aside from us are perfectly justified in seeing us as a cancer on the earth.

I doubt if they see us as anything at all. And I certainly don’t view them that way.

I don’t fully agree with the e-mail quoted in this article but as humans we should at least have a little empathy for our fellow earthlings.

Who said we shouldn’t? Who are you arguing with?

[Update at 1:34 PM PDT]

Thomas Hawthorne writes:

It’s amazing how egotistical humans are. For a people who want to put 77,00 tons of nuclear wastes into a big mountain in Nevada, to think that we have the ego to travel into the unknown just blows me away.

Ummmm…OK. I don’t see the logical connection, but go on…

Humans can’t get even get along with their own fellow humans because they look “different”. How can travel into the unknown RAND?

Again, there is some logic missing here. The conclusion doesn’t in any way follow from the premise. The fact that some people can’t get along with other people does not prevent yet other people from exploring the unknown. There has been prejudice for centuries, but somehow, we managed to explore the entire planet, and send people to the Moon.

You know I had a discussion with a friend of mine about possibly discovering other intelligent life on other planets. And I asked what him what if this “being” was blob of nothingness, would we consider it an “intelligent” life form? He said no. He said because they would not be similar to us. It’s amazing how egotistical humans are……

Ummm, yes. You already said that. I’m having trouble getting your point, though.

People like you would land on a planet, declare it as you own, set up a republican party, and give tax breaks to all the rich aliens………..

Apparently you know nothing about “people like me.”

I’m sorry folks. I’ve gotten a lot of supportive emails, but I really wanted to focus on the opposition. I’ve put up everything that I’ve received that’s negative–I’m not holding back some plethora of intelligent criticism. This really does seem to be the best they can do.

[Update on Saturday night, the 27th of April, at 11PM PDT]

I’m back from Phoenix, and I see there’s quite the fray in the comments section.

I got one more gem of an email from a Bill Feeney (I’ve slightly redacted it–this is, after all a semi-family blog, at least if you’re the Addams Family):

Good god I haven’t seen, read or heard anything this inane in quite awhile. Here’s a newsflash, Rand, from you column you appear to be a small minded limp d**k with a severe short man complex. Do you get paid? Your writing has not logical flow. You sound like a four year old fighting in the playground. Please tell me how I can get my own bulls**t column at Fox.

The posts where people criticize my writing amidst spelling errors, punctuation lacks, insults, profanities and inanities, are always my favorites…

Network Attack

For those who are wondering why their net connections are having problems today, I just talked to my web host, who told me that denial of service attacks are rampant today, and hitting everybody. I know that Earthlink has been having problems, because I couldn’t get to their news server for several hours this morning, and packets are dropping all over the place.

I’m wondering if this is pranksters, or something more nefarious, perhaps from the Middle East…

Changing Times

Citizen space traveler Mark Shuttleworth achieved orbit today on a Soyuz launch. He’s on his way to the International Space Station, approximately one year after the Tito flight. He is expected to get a much better reception than did Tito.

Oh, Give Me Land, Lots Of land Under Starry Skies Above…

Cole Porter knew what people want, in his song “Don’t Fence Me In.”

Professor Reynolds and Mark Whittington have beaten me to this, but for those three or four people who come here for the space stuff, I want to point out a very worthy initiative by Alan Wasser (current head of the National Space Society) to provide economic incentives for space settlement. This may free up more private investment for it, both reducing the need to rely on the taxpayer, and ensuring that the money is spent on (gasp!) actual space settlement activities, as opposed to simple job (but not wealth) creation.

In brief, he proposes the establishment of a regime for property rights in space via legislation which would result in the U.S. recognizing same. The perceived lack of such rights is one (though by no means the only) barrier to raising investment funds for off-world ventures. When investors can’t be sure they’re going to hold clear title to their investment, it makes it that much harder to persuade them to invest.

I haven’t read the proposed legislation in detail, but I certainly concur with the spirit of it.

A Cancer On The Face Of The Universe

Humankind is a pestilence–an unhealthy malignant growth, ravaging and destroying everything that it touches. For the sake of the rest of the universe, we must confine the vile infection to the single planet that it now inhabits.

That’s the attitude of surprisingly many people (though not of your humble weblogger).

I got an email this week from one of them–a “Lori M.”:

Forget “practical and affordable”- space travel is not ethical. Let’s face it: We cause problems here and we would just take them somewhere else.

Humankind consistently demonstrates a strong lack of the integrity for such a venture. History foreshadows the cyclical injustices of the past played out anew on some poor, unsuspecting ecosystem. Space travel/colonization would be irresponsible and sadly consistent with the thinking that got us to the state of informed depravity we are in now.

I’m not saying we should trash space travel- just table it until human societies show more promise. We do best to spend more time and effort developing character before technology.

“Space travel is not ethical.”

My, my, where to begin?

I don’t know where my correspondent was when she sent me the email, but I’ll bet it wasn’t the African savannah. I wonder if she thinks that the human race had the “integrity” to leave that place where we evolved and expand into what is now Europe? Or that those who had spread further east, into Siberia, should have had second thoughts before crossing the Aleutian land bridge and thus despoiling the Americas?

Is she of the school of thought that those descendants of the Africans, having developed the technologies of sail and navigation, should have then stayed in Europe, until they had attained some kind of societal perfection, by her (no doubt lofty) standards? Well, perhaps she is, though, of course, had they done so, she probably wouldn’t be here to so helpfully (if not specifically) point out to us our myriad failings. And wouldn’t that have been a tragedy?

Human beings “cause problems here…”

Indeed we do. Of course we cause lots of other things as well.

We often cause solutions to those same problems.

We also cause scientific theories. And symphonies, and majestic works of art, and gardens, and laughter, and joy. But apparently she would insist that all non-terrestrial existence remain empty of these things, because we’re too “depraved” and insufficiently “ethical” (by whatever unexplained standards of ethics she uses). To paraphrase the kid in West Side Story, as he told Officer Krupke, she wants to “make the universe deprived on account of we’re depraved.”

And she’s concerned that we will attack some “unsuspecting ecosystem.” Here’s a newsflash, Lori–not only are ecosystems off the earth “unsuspecting”–they’re non-existent, as far as we know. There is no solid evidence for life in the universe anywhere other than on our planet (which isn’t to say with any certainty, of course, that it doesn’t exist).

If this remains the case, our role in expanding into the universe will not be to ravage ecosystems, but to create them. We can, and will, make our dead solar system flower, filling it with life (and not just human life), and love, and beauty, and laughter.

And unfortunately, because we’re human, we will indeed take along many of the uglier things that our emailer deplores. But we will do it regardless, and we won’t wait to develop the “character” that she demands–to do so would, I suspect, postpone the next step of our evolution forever. Because I suspect that that’s how long it will be before the “Lori M”s of the world finds our flawed race up to their hypercritical and unrealistic muster.

Fortunately, the decision will not be hers. She is welcome to stay behind. As the old tee-shirt says, the meek will inherit the earth–the rest of us will go to the stars, and do so with a clear conscience.

Blogspot Watch Update

I’ve added a new feature to Blogspot Watch. Now, in addition to telling you whether it’s up or down, I’m logging the ups and downs, and using them to calculate the percentage of down time for the past twenty-four hours. I display this at the bottom of my link list, just above the “Moveable Type” ad. As I type this, Blogspot just came back up after a twelve-minute outage. The percentage downtime over the past twenty four hours is 16.3%.

For those who are interested, the log itself can be viewed here.

[Update at 11:09 AM PDT]

Per popular request (i.e., one person asked me, and no one has objected), I’ve moved all the Blogspot status stuff to the same place, just to the left (until this message scrolls down). I’ve also added a permalink to the log.

I should also note, that if you see a 0.0%, that’s not because Ev magically healed it. That’s the default number in the template, which appears whenever I do a page update (adding or editing posts). Note that the default traffic signal is green also, so a 0.0% means that blogspot isn’t necessarily up, even though the signal says it is (the way it’s been lately, maybe I should make the red signal the default…)

Any, just check back in a minute or so, and you’ll see the right number, with the correct blogspot status, after the background script does its update. Another way to check is to view the log, and see what the last entry was (up or down).

One More For The Blogger Book

Megan McArdle has written another entry–an instant classic.

For weeks I walked around the site trying to appreciate it. I wanted, as in the movies, a single moment when it all came crashing over me and I finally understood in my heart all that had been lost. I never got it. I had many, many moments when I cried — the worst was when I saw those thousands “Missing” flyers papering Union Square, and every single flyer had a picture of a victim on one of the happiest days of their lives, looking radiant and expectant and utterly unable to imagine the kind of tragedy that had ended their lives. The oddest was when I was riding on the subway one night, and I was tired, and after Fulton Street the conductor said “Next Stop, Chambers Street” and I wondered, for a split second, why he wasn’t stopping at the World Trade Center — and realized for the first time that nothing would ever, ever be the same again.

So I still haven’t comprehended it, in the sense of the word that means to develop full understanding. But I keep having these moments, like when I realize that I am sitting in a trailer, in a hole that contains nothing but the absence of two buildings, and that entirely unfamiliar objects in my line of sight are in fact the skeleton of a place that I did not particularly love when it was still around, but which was part of the fabric of my every day.

Biting Commentary about Infinity…and Beyond!