The Spiritual Roots of Space Colonies
“Enjoy this trip, but remember that the parents of the first Martians playing outside in your yard expect more from you than that” is the parting shot of the preface for The High Road (1981) written by Harrison H. Shmitt, an Apollo 17 Astronaut. After a dozen years, this striking statement becomes an extremely optimistic wish. The pace of the space program has slowed down since then. However, the dream of space colonies is fascinating more people than ever.
The idea of space colonies can be considered as a childish fantasy stimulated by our modern lunar advanture–a one second marathon in a billion year racetrack. But, many philosophers and astronomers have taken this idea very seriously. Volumes of books and countless of articles have already projected this dream in its very details. You can see a myriad of suggested models of colonies with their rotating spheres, cylinders, toroidal rings, and mirrors, etc.
There are some scientists who have religiously dedicated themselves to the revelations from heavens, not in Hebrew, but in the language of radio signals. Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence (SETI) is becoming the latest craze. The Planetary Society, which is established by Bruce Murray and Carl Sagan has already attracted 100,000 well educated members. Huge radio telescopes are scanning the 400 billion stars of our Milky Way galaxy. In just five years, the Project META has “made some 60 trillion observations at various frequencies while examining the entire accessible sky” (Carl Sagan, Parade, Sep. 19, 93)
On the other hand, another 100,000 less educated people are interested with another version of this modern passion: UFOs. There are many living “prophets” who strongly believe that extraterrestrial frontiers have invaded our planet. They are frequently excited with incredible stories ranging from governmental conspiracy to alien abduction cases.
Since we have got so dizzy with the incredible miracles of technology we are treating the oxymoronic mixture of scince-fiction almost as another branch of science. Positive and negative genetic engineering is already a controversial argument in medical ethics. Self-reproducing intelligent robots are welcomed as the next habitats of the earth. It is not anymore intellectually disturbing to many not being able to separate possibility from impossibility. Our scientific achievement has inflated the universe of possibilities to an enormous size which virtually does not have a boundary. It seems that the motto of the next generation will be “impossible is impossible.”
Our eyes are dazzled with the light of modern scientific blaze. Any argument spiced with a bunch of latest scientific jargon gets a good chance of being treated with high respect. Did science become a goddess with scientists as her gullible worshipers? Or, are we still underestimating the power of science and technology?
Before writing on the desirability and possibility of space colonies, I would like to answer briefly to a question starting with “why”: Why are we so interested with space colonies, or with extraterrestrials or UFOs? Why we are looking up to the heavens with our modern devices.
The answer is another question: “can you show us a period in human history when we were not interested in heavens?” The desire for space colonies, or search for extraterrestrials is just the modern expression of one of the oldest human interests. We are interested with the space from the beginning of our history. Astrology, and most of the religions are the living examples of this interest.
We were interested with the heavens when we felt depressingly lonely and helpless in this “big” world. We are interested with the heavens when we loose our hope from worldly solutions. We are and will be more interested with the heavens or space when we feel the smothering density of population and pollution. Previously, we expected help from up to down. We received or we assumed that we received revelations from God or gods. Those revelations guided us in those days, or we thought that they guided us. We believed or dreamed of life after death in the heavens.
But now we are getting active. Instead of waiting for a help from the heavens, we started entertaining ideas of ascending to heavens with our space ships. And without waiting for resurrection. These ideas may radiate the aroma of confidence, or the smell of intellectual arrogance, nevertheless, they are the product of loneliness and helplessness (if not of intellectual show off) of human nature on this tiny particle of cosmic dust. We cannot live on this earth without thinking of heavens.
PS: This article was written in 19 October 1993 by Edip Yuksel for Phil 399H thought by Prof. Henry Byerly at the University of Arizona