Why space exploration and colonization are non-negotiable aspects of the future of humanity

ken ham, spaceFounder of the Creation Museum, Ken Ham has made the erroneous suggestion that the human search for extraterrestrial life in space is completely useless. This argument is made on the grounds that the Bible has given mankind every bit of information that it could ever possibly need. Furthermore, Ham makes the bizarre point that, since aliens have not (and necessarily cannot have) heard the glorious gospel of Jesus Christ, they are all going to hell.

Under the surface of this nonsense-speak is a deep-seated fear in the theist community that scientific exploration will eventually completely eradicate the basis for religious belief. In reality, scientists (especially astrophysicists like Neil Degrasse Tyson) operate entirely independently of the religious “implications” of their discoveries, they are simply doing what they do best, and, in the process, working towards a more efficient, enlightened, and prosperous human race.

What Ken Ham wants is not just an end to the search for extraterrestrial life, but an end to the entire process of scientific discovery that has essentially defined mankind since approximately the mid-17th century. This would be a catastrophic mistake. Endless possibilities exist for humanity in space, and, in fact, space travel and exploration may hold the keys to survival for the human race in the long term.

I. NASA, Corporatization, and Celestial Militarization

The future of space travel is, at this current point in time, uncertain. Obviously the role of US public funds in the exploration and utilization of space for human advancement is decreasing. This is not necessarily the worst possibility, however. Private companies, most notably Spacex founded by Elon Musk, are revolutionizing travel to and from space in ways previously thought impossible.

Many progressives lament the effective loss of a powerful state space program in the United States, often yearning for the decades of the Cold War, during which the government actually had a legitimate reason to build a space program. Now with the loss of an enemy in the former Soviet Union, there is no one to really compete with. However, with this being said, there are many new economic and humanitarian reasons to move into space and various corporate entities seem to be more than up to the challenge.

The origins of NASA can be found at the end of the Second World War. A new economic, political, and militaristic, global order emerged, quickly moulding itself into what would become the Cold War. Former Nazi scientists like Wernher von Braun (yes, the American space program was basically German, von Braun, having been a former member of the SS who pioneered the much feared V-2 rockets which caused chaos during the later years of the war in Britain and which served as the model for early US space-oriented rockets) were captured or defected to both the USA and the Soviet Union and were given clemency for possible war crimes at the Nuremberg trials in exchange for help in building humanity’s space infrastructure.

In the midst of this ideological conflict, the powers of the Soviet Union and the United States found in one another true competitors. For each country the other served as an other against which to base efforts at advancement. This is the basis for what has become known as the “space race.” Without this competition, as has become quite clear, there is little governmental impetus for large-scale space travel and colonization.

Interest in space exists among various corporations around the world. Many of the most notable of these companies are headquartered in the US itself. Space and celestial bodies like the Moon, Mars, asteroids, and comets possibly hold vast stores of incredibly-valuable resources.

As corporations inevitably begin to capitalize, there will be a growing necessity for an expansion of law and order in space itself. This would entail the growth of what is known as “space law”. As countries, then, become increasingly involved in day-to-day operations in space, a necessity will appear for the militarization of space (especially in the event of the discovery of hostile extraterrestrial species).

In the 1960s, agreements were signed primarily between the Soviet Union and the United States which forbade the militarization of space. One such agreement, the Treaty on Principles Governing the Activities of States in the Exploration and Use of Outer Space acted to do just this. Article IV reads: “State Parties to the Treaty undertake not to place in orbit around the Earth any objects carrying nuclear weapons or any other kinds of weapons of mass destruction, install such weapons on celestial bodies, or station such weapons in outer space in any other manner.”

“The Moon and other celestial bodies shall be used by all State Parties to the Treaty exclusively for peaceful purposes. The establishment of military bases, installations and fortifications, the testing of any type of weapons and the conduct of military maneuvers on celestial bodies shall be forbidden. The use of military personnel for scientific research or for any other peaceful purposes shall not be prohibited. The use of any equipment or facility necessary for peaceful exploration of the Moon and other celestial bodies shall also not be prohibited.” 

Now, the wording of this document is fairly clear, however so was the wording in the Treaty of Versailles. As circumstances change, so too will the human view of militarism in space. It is highly-likely that in the not-too-distant future there will be a very real human military presence in space. A military presence is not necessarily bad, in fact it may aid in the faster growth of space settlements.

II. The Moon 

On July 21, 1969 the astronauts of NASA mission Apollo 11 landed on the surface of the Moon. The significance of this event to humanity cannot be measured simply in terms of initial value. This accomplishment transformed the Moon itself from a simple “object” to a literal “place” where humans had finally walked. Colonization of the Moon in the very near future could possibly provide many different benefits to mankind in its evolutionary process.

Resources like Helium 3 (of which there is enough on the Moon alone to power the entire Earth for decades) are plentiful on the Moon and in other locations out in space. In the effort to effectively harness these stores, one can easily see that companies like Spacex will jump on any and all profit motives. For example, in 2004, four interns from NASA stole approximately 100 grams of Moon rocks. These rocks were then sold at prices approaching $800 per gram. Now, this may, at first, sound like a bad thing. No one wants corporations to monopolize space, however the ruthless efficiency with which the market gets things done when there are dollars to be made may be just the thing humanity needs to jump-start its space colonization.

A paper from the University of Buffalo Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering suggests that there are several other benefits of moon colonization beyond simple Helium-3 stores. It states that, “Using the Moon as a shield, deep space radio astronomy could be carried out with no interference from Earth or sun generated radio waves.” Furthermore the authors of the paper conclude that, as a result of the differing magnitude of the Moon’s gravity, the future launching of payloads out into space could be up to 22 times easier than it currently is (that being payloads launched from the Earth).

Huge possibilities also exist for employment in Moon-related industries. It has been suggested that much of the work on the Moon will be done by drone, however humans will be required to operate these drones (at least until a viable AI alternative has been developed). Other possibilities exist in the construction and maintenance of human settlements on the Moon (especially in regards to communications technology).

III. What About the Aliens?

It is a near-statistical certainty that life exists elsewhere in the universe (or, depending on which current theory of physics one ascribes to, multiverse). Period. Furthermore, among whatever quantity of life that there is in the universe, it follows through logic that at least a small portion of said life is intelligent. The question that remains, however is: So what? At present humanity (at least to the best knowledge of the vast majority of the public) has not made any type of meaningful contact with other forms of celestial life. Assuming that life is spread throughout the universe, this would necessarily dictate that a good portion of existing life is impossibly far from direct human contact.

The scientific process is one that will never qualitatively end. Uncovering the “truth” of the universe is an ongoing process and, as such, it will necessarily undergo many ideological changes and paradigm shifts. According to the current, strict, and commonly-accepted laws of physics, no object can exceed the speed of light (although recent experiments at the CERN Large Hadron Collider in Switzerland may indicate that this is not necessarily true) as time itself slows down infinitely as one approaches light speed in an infinitely-close manner. If scientists can find possible ways to get around this then all manner of celestial-exploratory options will suddenly be possible for researchers.

IV. Final Analysis and Conclusions

Essentially, the argument that Ken Ham makes is that humanity as a whole must remain isolated in the universe so that (in implied fashion) mankind will not come together. The unification of humanity poses a direct threat to partisan religious and sociological ideologies like Christianity which often seek to keep different groups of humans isolated from one another.

The benefit of space exploration (and even contact with extraterrestrial life) consists in providing a unifying factor for all members of the human species. If a hostile species of aliens were discovered, and, likewise, the survival of the human species were directly threatened, humans would have little time for absurd ideological divisions between left and right, communist and capitalist, theist and atheist (the list continues literally into infinity).

Should we give up on space exploration because the bible (allegedly) tells us everything we could possibly need to know? Should we give up on the idea of ever finding extraterrestrials simply because they may not have heard of Jesus Christ? Should we give up on all of the almost inconceivable scientific advances that are to come to the human race simply because Ken Ham wants us to?

What has been previously-showcased in this article is the possible future that this man wants us to shun completely in favor of theocratic ignorance. Necessarily there are numerous statistically-possible positive and negative variables that may come from this stage of human evolution (one example of many being the possibility of finding hostile vs. peaceful, intelligent life elsewhere in the universe). Science is not an enemy to religion, neither is it a friend. They exist in two entirely-separate realities. As progressives, we must recognize the possibilities and the risks, however we must never succumb to a fear of the unknown.

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2 COMMENTS

  1. Sean,

    A fine piece. Well done.

    All these commercial folks aside, the Chinese have a healthy space exploration program going. This rather makes one think that the nicest piece of prose Richard Nixon ever wrote was his “We came in peace for all mankind.” Sometimes doing the moral thing pays off big down the line…

    -dlj.

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