In the ever-expanding Annals of Hubris and Delusion, we turn to recent comments made by two distinguished physicists who appear to have caught the same strain of Space Fever presently burning through the ranks of the world’s billionaires. First up: Freeman Dyson, in the pages of the New York Review of Books:
Words shocking in their shallowness, from a scientist of such stature: what evidence can Dyson summon to justify his view that humans merit such an expanded role, as “creators of a living universe”?
The historical and environmental record actually suggests the opposite, namely that we destroy and contaminate everything that comes within our grasp. Untethered from any empirically grounded evidence, Dyson sounds like a fairground barker, urging dim punters to pony up for the ET Fun House.
Then we have Stephen Hawking, writing in the Guardian:
Oh my. First, Hawking takes note of the “ever-increasing risk” of being wiped out; yet somehow this does not diminish his ardor for signing up for one of Dyson’s Ark “seeds”, conveyed we suppose by the likes of Bezos and Musk.
Rather than confront the limitless appetite for violence and environmental damage exhibited in centuries of human behavior, and the consequent implications for evolutionary biology, Dyson and Hawking become mouthpieces for a Grand Exit Strategy for those who have amassed sufficient plunder: ad astra!
DP correspondent Jon Swan writes:
It is more thrilling to imagine finding life – even if it is only a speck of bacteria – deep within a frozen ocean of another planet, which Congress has directed NASA to do in its Europa mission, the centerpiece of its Ocean Worlds Exploration Program, than to try to heal a wounded planet. And more thrilling yet to imagine establishing human colonies in space, as billionaire Elon Musk hopes to do on Mars, and as do even such respected scientists as Freeman Dyson and Stephen Hawking, who, in his latest book, writes, “I think the human race has no future if it doesn’t go to space.”
There can be little doubt that our species will wiped out on the planet that gave birth to us if we turn away from the reality that surrounds us and focus our hopes and dreams — and spend our treasure — on starting a new life in outer space. But is a species that is willing to turn its back on the plight of seven, eight, and soon nine billion lives and to spend billions on providing for the escape of a privileged few worth preserving?
A very good question; and as the Cold War heats up all over again, we suggest a far more plausible endgame for the human adventure, one more consistent with the scientific and historical evidence: