Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Colonies on the Moon

Stephen Hawking has recently declared on the website BigThink that humans may have to consider making a new home for themselves in space in order to keep the human race going.

You know what this means, right? It's time to make those colonies on the moon that we've been talking about for so long. Yes, the time has come to find a new home planet and so far, it seems that the moon or Mars is the best new candidate.

The moon has the advantage of being fairly remote and full of interesting craters. It does, unfortunately, lack gravity, but it has wonderful potential to be a rock-collector's haven. Mars, which has been suspected of being able to sustain life and produce water, is also an excellent candidate, but has the mifortune of being substantially further away and red. It does have a cool name and a chocolate bar named after it, though.

While there's no arguing that Hawking is a brilliant, gifted man and an excellent guest star on the Simpsons, I'm not so sure what to make of this statement. It could be theoretically sound, all things considered, but logistically odd. On the one hand, Hawking argues that humans should consider a new planet because of the wear and tear on our current planet. Pollution, climate change (if you believe in that) and human disasters brought on by such international incidents like the Cuban Missile Crisis, have all contributed to our planet's demise and it is slowly deteriorating as a result.

Which begs the question: if we do all of this to our current planet, won't we just damage the next planet? An apocalyptic disaster that destroys the earth may be inevitable, but if this is triggered mostly by human error, do we really deserve a new planet to destroy?

Granted, it does take us millenia to destroy a planet, so there's the remote possibility that we will learn from our past mistakes and make the new planet a better place. But haven't we already been saying that for a millenia? And don't we generally recycle the same mistakes in the same way that we recycle fashion?

Are we worth saving? Some people would argue that humans are worth saving because we're intelligent life forms that have self-awareness and great potential to create beautiful things like music, art, literature and other remarkable things. Other people would argue that we're one of the only species that knows how to love and that the meaning of our relationships is worth saving because they're true bonds that defy simple concepts like natural selection or basic survival.

And then there's the crowd that says that humans are just arrogant apes, that we're not much different from any other species on the planet. Many have come before us, many of us will come after us and we will die out. We're a species like any other and not some gifted group of chosen people and that our relationships are the evolved result of basic survival, but no better.

So maybe we should consider this and all the things that we've done in our history to ourselves, the environment, the planet and each other before we start selling time shares on the moon.

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