Retrospectacle: A Neuroscience Blog

So, my esteemed ScienceBloggers Grrrscientist and PZ Myers have weighed in on Stephen Hawking’s recent comments regarding the state of the planet and what we’re suppost to do about it. To paraphrase, he believes that humans should be actively cultivating colonies on the Moon or beyond, in the increasingly likely event that something disastous happens on Earth.

“It is important for the human race to spread out into space for the survival of the species,” Hawking said. “Life on Earth is at the ever-increasing risk of being wiped out by a disaster, such as sudden global warming, nuclear war, a genetically engineered virus or other dangers we have not yet thought of.”

Good point, but he also states that….

“We won’t find anywhere as nice as Earth unless we go to another star system..”

Therefore, to me this seems like trashing a mansion and then moving into the tiny guesthouse, just because we don’t feel like cleaning up the mansion. Earth will alway, always, always be the most comfortable and most suitable place for human life. The reason is obvious: we have all evolved that way. Our genes, and hence our bodies and minds, have been bent around this planet over the billions of years that life has existed. It is certainly possible, through the tricks of technology that we keep getting better at, to one day survive outside the Earth. But are we really so childish, and so lazy, as to prefer finding a “brand new planet” rather than revive and protect the best option we’ll ever have?

On the other hand, I’ll be the first to throw a buck in the collection plate for space exploration galore. Learning more about the universe will:

a) Provide more evidence with which to embarrass ID-ers
b) Teach us more about the world we live in, and hence, ourselves
c) Perhaps will provide us with new materials and resources
d) Make contact with other life
f) Get cool Hubble telescope pictures to be used as Windows desktops by nerds
g) Provide a last resort getaway, should true disaster strike
h) Spawn terrific space-based dramas (I wonder if Hawking likes Star Trek?)

Ok, off topic here, but who wouldn’t love to see a fight between William Shatner and Stephen Hawking? I’m sure he’s got some deadly-cool gadgets in that chair. And we all know that Shatner can throw a mean sucker-punch…..


  1. #1 island
    June 15, 2006

    I wonder if Hawking likes Star Trek?

    Probably… 😉

    Noted physicist (and one-time Star Trek: The Next Generation guest star) Professor Stephen Hawking

  2. #2 Shelley
    June 15, 2006

    Ooooohhhhhh. Must……find…..said……episode……..(but I’m in lab…arrrgh the horror)

  3. #3 Shelley
    June 15, 2006

    Island, who are you? Your website is mega-interesting!

  4. #4 island
    June 15, 2006

    just the messenger

    I have a blot too.

    Check-out Anthropic Dogma

  5. #5 CaptainMike
    June 15, 2006

    Earth is pretty comfortable for us right now, for the reason you put forward. But thinking that it will always stay that way is wrong.

    I agree that we should devote considerable time and energy to cleaning up the mansion, but getting a self-sustaining population into the guest house should be our second priority. Our other option is extinction, which I personally find unpalatable.

    On a totally different topic, Dr. Hawking has also appeared on both The Simpsons and Futurama. According to one episode of The Simpsons he now lives in Springfield and is the new owner of the Little Ceasars. On Futurama he is a member of Al Gore’s Action Rangers, a team of super nerds.

    I think his bit on Futurama is the best out of all his TV appearances, as it includes the following dialogue:

    Mr. Panucci: Hey, Dr. Hawking. You want your usual?
    Hawking: No. Today I’d like something good.

    A little later…

    Fry: Aren’t you that really smart scientist guy who invented gravity?
    Hawking: Yeah…sure…why not.

  6. #6 Shelley
    June 15, 2006

    I must also see those, they sound hilarious. Actually I’m just kinda baffled that a scientist became “cool” in a generation that, the majority of which, has never read A Brief History of Time. I’m convinced its because of his mecha-voice.

    As I stated up there, I do think that we should develop other options than Earth. We know its not going to last forever (likely it will be a moot point, as neither will we, but for the sake of argument…). My point is that before we start out-sourcing where we’re gonna live in the future millennia, a better, cheaper, and more responsible avenue is to clean up our mess, like good boys and girls.

  7. #7 island
    June 15, 2006

    Shelly, I agree with your reasoning. As I understand, the new evolutionary buzz theme is “sufficiency”, whereas I think that “efficiency” is more accurate, in terms of balancing energy dissemination and survival within the constraints of our ecosystem.

    I’m just a student of nature, but I’ve been studying physics and theory for about 20 years and can hold my own with the best of them in my particular area of interest.

    I can see every launch from my house and I’ve been a huge supporter of the space program since John. F. Kennedy said that we should go to the moon, having personally witnessed every major launch since the monkeys and Alan Sheppard, not to mention the first moon shot and the first shuttle mission.

    History has proven time and again that our exploration efforts pay-off by orderes of magnitude.

  8. #8 island
    June 15, 2006

    I also aplogize for not being able to spell, Shelley.


  9. #9 Mark
    June 16, 2006

    Hawking was in the episode Descent, Part 1

    He played poker with Einstien, Newton, and Data on the holodeck.

  10. #10 Andreas
    June 23, 2006

    “Earth is pretty comfortable for us right now”

    By comfortable, do you mean the pesticides adding up in ourselves, eventually preventing us to reproduce?

    Or do you mean the global warming, or any other locust
    for that matter? 🙂

    We are free falling, in the hands of global corporations!

    The end is near!

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