We are developing the social individualist meta-context for the future. From the very serious to the extremely frivolous... lets see what is on the mind of the Samizdata people.

Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

“End ‘colonial’ approach to space exploration, scientists urge”

Genuine Guardian headline.

Humans boldly going into space should echo the guiding principle of Captain Kirk’s Star Trek crew by resisting the urge to interfere, researchers have said, stressing a need to end a colonial approach to exploration.

As a Trekkie (watched The Tholian Web again last night), a libertarian, and a convinced anti-speciesist, I would gladly join with these brave scientists to demand an end to the colonial oppression of our fellow sapient beings… but before we end it, is there not a small logical barrier that we need to cross first?

Nasa has made no secret of its desire to mine the moon for metals, with China also keen to extract lunar resources – a situation that has been called a new space race.

But Dr Pamela Conrad of the Carnegie Institution of Science said the focus should shift away from seeking to exploit discoveries.

Indeed it should. What about the intelligent aliens bleeping piteously for release from the human yoke?


OK, then, alien animals. Tell me how they are oppressed so I can send them thoughts of solidarity across the light years…

“Regardless of who or what is out there, that attitude of exploration being almost synonymous with exploitation gives one a different perspective as you approach to the task,” she said.

Regardless? FFS, lady, give me something to work with here. This is the Guardian, it doesn’t have to be much. I’d have been satisfied with some oppressed alien fungi, but “regardless”, as in “regardless of whether there is any victim whatsoever”, does not hack it.

“Because if something that’s not here [on Earth] is seen as a resource, just ripe to be exploited, then that [perpetuates] colonialism.”

She wants me to feel bad for objectifying rocks?

Conrad said such attitudes matter because a colonial approach can impinge on the rights of others to explore – whether in space itself or by looking at it from Earth.

Researchers have previously argued that light pollution creates just such a problem, with low-orbit satellites threatening to hinder the ability for astronomers to make new discoveries, and lighting associated with urban expansion and the use of LEDs making it increasingly difficult to pick out the constellations when stargazing.

Perhaps I should not have been so quick to mock. Immaterial things like the ability to see the night sky do matter, and it is not enough to blithely say “The polluter pays” as if those three words solved the problem. That link goes to an essay by Matt Zwolinski in which he quotes David Friedman on light pollution. While anyone can see that sending a thousand megawatt laser beam into someone’s eyes counts as aggression, Friedman pointed out that the principle remains the same if the intensity of the beam is reduced to that of a flashlight. Where should the lower limit of what counts as actionable light pollution be? It is not easy to say.

Nor am I unsympathetic to the point Dr Conrad goes on to make that the uncompensated harm suffered by any human being whose view of the night sky is impaired is even greater for those peoples who have not forsaken gazing at the stars in favour of gazing at liquid crystal displays, but who still see them, as most of humanity did throughout history, as portents and wonders.

Then she blew it. Can you see what is wrong with this sentence?

The latter, some have argued, amounts to cultural genocide as the stars, and the ability to observe them, play a key role in many indigenous traditions and knowledge systems.

Did someone buy a job lot of genocide references on eBay recently and flood the market trying to shift them on? I see them everywhere, going cheap.

9 comments to “End ‘colonial’ approach to space exploration, scientists urge”

  • bobby b

    You are an existist. We must stop our colonization of the marginalized indigenous nonexistent. (Invisible raised-fist emoji here.)

  • Paul Marks

    Even Karl Marx understood that to use natural resources was not evil – it was good. Dr Marx was many horrible things – but he was not a “Green”, unlike the weird Frankfurt School sect that has taken over Marxism. People who think that mining the Moon (an airless and lifeless desert) is evil.

    As for “exploiting aliens” – Labour Theory of Value absurdity (so Karl Marx and David Ricardo are a bit to blame for this nonsense – as they believed in the Labour Theory of Value).

    Captain Kirk.

    Unlike Captain Picard (of “The Next Generation”) who was quite happy to allow whole races of intelligent beings to die rather than violate the “Prime Directive” – Captain Kirk always tended to find a way round the “Prime Directive” to save the lives of the primitives (yes they were primitives – so are we by the standards of his technology) or to free them from slavery.

    This was because “liberals” of the 1960s (although they believed in a lot of nonsense in some ways) were not as bad as “liberals” of the 1990s (when “The Next Generation” was made) – most Hollywood types of the 1960s thought that genocide (the wiping out of whole races) was a bad thing. Although – yes Captain Picard sometimes does the right thing (it depends on who the script writer or writers for the episode were).

    Of course, by the standards of an utter abomination such as STD (officially “Star Trek Discovery” but really standing for Sexually Transmitted Disease) – “Star Trek: A New Generation” was wonderful.

    It is a matter of what you compare it to – do you compare it to the original series (it is not as good) or do you compare it with the what has been made in recent years (“New Generation” in the 1990s was much better than what has been made in recent years).

    Cultural Decline – and certainly not confined to Star Trek, it covers just about everything.

  • J.G.Harston

    the focus should shift away from seeking to exploit discoveries.

    We’ve discovered electricity – no! stop that! mustn’t exploit that discovery.
    We’ve discovered penicillin – no! stop that! mustn’t exploit that discovery.
    We’ve discovered the photo-electric effect – no! stop that! mustn’t exploit that discovery.

    Sheesh. They really are morons.

  • Nicholas (Unlicensed Joker) Gray

    NASA exploited the moon when it took samples of moon-rock to Earth- when will the loonies get it back?

  • William H. Stoddard

    Paul: In fairness to Ricardo, when I took a look at his Principles of Political Economy and Taxation, I found the statement that a proportionality of the value of a commodity to the labor spent in producing it gave accurate estimates in most cases, but that there were specific things for which it didn’t work, among which he named specie. In other words, he was not treating the labor theory as a fundamental truth, but as a workable approximation that didn’t always apply. It was Marx who overgeneralized by turning the labor theory into an absolute truth, if not a definition of “value,” and thus inspired a lot of metaphysical speculation.

  • Paul Marks

    William H. Stoddard.

    Good point. Although the fact remains that the Labour Theory of Value was (and is) fundamentally wrong – that Adam Smith and David Ricardo were going down the wrong road (which, yes, we all do from time to time).

    And, you are correct, Karl Marx was a Collectivist (as his early manuscripts show) long before he came upon the Labour Theory Value – his “metaphysical speculation” came first, the economics (the false economics) came later.

  • Laird

    There is no point to exploring space (and spending enormous amounts of money doing so) other than exploitation of the resources found there. I reject that entire specious argument. Colonialism was generally a good thing.

  • There is no point to exploring space (and spending enormous amounts of money doing so) other than exploitation of the resources found there.

    I want to be as far as possible from Fauci, Daszak and their ilk. I do not wish to share a planet with them. More importantly, I do not want to be exposed to their idiotic experiments with modified viruses.

    If the ‘law’ will not stop them, then I must choose fight or flight.

  • What about this planet? Shouldn’t we humans all return to Africa and stop the colonial oppression of the other continents?