April 16, 2012
Neil deGrasse Tyson On Why We Should Avoid Extinction

If we get wiped out by a large asteroid strike all the other intelligent species in the galaxy will laugh at our extinct selves.

If humans one day become extinct from a catastrophic collision, we would be the laughing stock of aliens in the galaxy, for having a large brain and a space program, yet we met the same fate as that pea-brained, space program-less dinosaurs that came before us.

Yes, we really should try to avoid becoming the laughing stock of the galaxy.

I bet all the species that have defeated aging and developed the means to keep themselves always youthful are laughing at us for allowing ourselves to grow old and die too.

Share |      Randall Parker, 2012 April 16 10:25 PM  Dangers Asteroids

PacRim Jim said at April 17, 2012 3:33 AM:

Whatever happens to humanity, Lucille Ball and Jack Benny will survive, drifting inverse-squarely into space for millennia.
Aliens will envy us humans, no doubt.

DragonHorse said at April 17, 2012 4:11 AM:

Don't be a hater playa...Tyson is pop-science for the masses, an excellent spokesman in a field where most people don't have the personality to capture a lay-audience's attention for more than 2 minutes.

He also has some interesting political perspectives, you might agree with:


James Bowery said at April 17, 2012 12:37 PM:

Gerard O'Neill in his book "2081" described the desirability of mortality in terms with which Kuhn would have agreed:

As each generation matures, it also ossifies. This is not just something like the lack of neural plasticity but is tied up with identity itself.

We are neurophysiologically averse to backtracking correction and we haven't even gotten into the early developmental role played by DNA in laying down structure.

Sex -- the joy of living tied to meiotic recombination for evolutionary advance -- is love toward death and new birth. Giving up the meaning of sex is to abandon a primary achievement of evolution.

Lono said at April 17, 2012 1:14 PM:

They certainly might pity us.

Maybe if they took a few potshots at us we could actually get the near universal cooperation necessary to undertake some more significant progress in the area of space travel and colonization.

Name Redacted said at April 17, 2012 3:46 PM:

Affirmative action. In action.

Engineer Dad said at April 17, 2012 9:38 PM:

We consider Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson to be 'one righteous dude' for introducing us to the tireless, genius, border collie, Chaser.

DrClown said at April 17, 2012 10:03 PM:

I'm sure my extinct feelings will be very hurt by their derisive laughter.

GLM said at April 18, 2012 2:56 AM:

Other civilizations may not laugh at us. They may mourn the loss of good potential slave labor.

For Engineer Dad, anyone who introduces us to another Border Collie is always a hero.

Mark E said at April 18, 2012 12:43 PM:

I'll withhold judgement on the accuracy of the argument until we see the results of the election in November.

K2 said at April 18, 2012 12:52 PM:

Odds of a civilization killing asteroid hitting in the next 50 years? About 100,000 times worse than your dying in a car accident.
But don't let that stop another smarmy high ego entertainer with a Phd and an agenda from making stupid remarks to titillate the moron masses.

Extra credit: how many people have identified the behavior modifying argument being used here? Hint: God will fling your ass into
hell if you don't XXXXXX. Yep, it's a classic.

Kelly Parks said at April 18, 2012 1:43 PM:

We're already a laughing stock in the Galactic Community. The aliens have seen Star Trek, Battlestar Galactica, TV broadcasts of Star Wars, etc. And their blogs about these shows are full of comments like, "What is with all the whooshing? There's no whooshing! How do these idiots not know that there's no sound in space? The only show they made that seems to get it is Firefly. I can't wait for the second season."

PacRim Jim said at April 18, 2012 1:44 PM:

Though I sympathize with his objective, re-invigoration of the space program, he is being disingenuous.
Statistically, extinction-even asteroids happen on a scale of tens of millions of years, so there is practically no chance of it happening just now.
Sometimes it's better to let technology develop for a while before locking-in outmoded technology in the next space race.
If that's unclear, recall that the space shuttles were 1970s technology. Imagine if they had been designed a generation later.

Dave said at April 18, 2012 1:57 PM:

Even without the ability to divert an asteroid, we have one big advantage over the dinosaurs: We can see it coming and evacuate the strike zone. We'll also have enough advance warning to stockpile food (most dinosaurs weren't crushed or burned; they starved in a decade-long global winter). We might even benefit in the long run by mining the crater for rare minerals like iridium.

Axel Kassel said at April 18, 2012 2:09 PM:

What's this about "pea-brained, space program-less dinosaurs"?

They used their space ships to escape from Earth. That's why we don't see them at Trader Joe's or Pizza Hut.

Paul D. said at May 21, 2012 1:45 PM:

I'm pretty sure that (1) we don't need to have a manned space program to detect earth approaching asteroids, and (2) even after a massive impact, Earth will still be more habitable than anywhere else in the solar system.

Randall Parker said at May 22, 2012 9:33 PM:

If we diverted the current manned space program budget to construct defenses against asteroids we'd have a very bitching asteroid defense system in short order.


We might not find out about an incoming asteroid until days before it arrives. Not enough time to move potentially tens or hundreds of millions of people.

Akhenaten said at July 28, 2012 6:54 PM:

Long period comets are actually more damaging and give less warning. Supervolcanos, GRBs. massive solar disturbances are all potential extinction events
Two basic questions need to be considered

First and most important
Should we attempt to avoid mass extinction? Some Greens and misanthropes say that Man is so wicked that extinction is a just reward for us. This presumes that Humanity is without a role beyond that of destroyer, and is the same view as faced by Lot in his plea to God not to destroy all of Sodom for the wickedness of many.

In an evolving embryonic Universe, growing self consciousness of the Universe is a positive stage worthy of nurture in its OWN right. Mind is the tool by which this is achieved, through the media of Science and Art. HUmanity should and must be treated as a creature of intrinsic merit and role in this Universe, unless or until it can be proved that our mental development is NOT unique. Until that day, if and when it comes, we must treat Man as a unique and endangered species. Deliberatly refraining from measures which could ensure the longterm development and future of Man therefore is a form of pre-emptive suicide for which the term genocide is almost honorific!

So far we have NO proven ground for asserting that Human Intellect, Exploration Art or Sceince are being replaced or even can be replaced. Attempts to pre-empt/abort our future development "To Save the Planet" are therefore wide of the mark. There are many more planets than there are Mindful technological species( on current evidence, at least). and furthermore it can be argued that dispersal of our restless curiosity and intelligence away from Earth in a cosmic diaspora would enhance the capabilities of Mother Earth( to procreate- over the next few billion years)and for Man to evolve into his /her successors. "Man is a Rope stretched between Ape and Superman" .

Axiom 1; Man is a new stage in cosmic evolution and must act to survive and develop to his full and Universal potential. Spinoza proposed that human physical presence should extend to the reach of his Mind. We can see this as a mandate for cosmic diaspora

Secondly, and more prosaic- can this be done in Space, and would the result be superior to remaining Earthbound?. Costs are normally and rightly opposed to Space Expansion, and, IMHO, have been the sole credible grounds for such opposition.
We now stand at an era where costs of space launches are expected to fall significantly with the advent of new private players, ( cf Skylon, SpaceX and several others)and sound economic reasons eg space tourism and solar power satellites (at least in China and Japan). SPS are one hidden driver for China's growing space programme.
The problems of Closed Loop life support, ecological systems, solar power satellites , in situ resources, and space weather are being addressed and would appear to be more soluble than the problem of running a system of sound money.
These problems will be solved by the burgeoning private space indujstry in collaboration with Space Agencies, and, if we desired it could lead to a self sustainable dispersed civilsation within a few generations.

The grim alternative is a closed Earthbound civilisation increasingly controlled by legions of bureaucrats and petty despots, at a far greater cost than anything ever imagined by space pioneers. We know exactly where shortages - real or imagined- created or controlled by ideological zealots- will lead. Who can forget the joys of the Gulag?

The last 2 centuries have shown us that calls currently made to abrogate freedoms to "Save the Planet" probably wouldn't succeed( tyrannies never do!) but would impoverish , disenfranchise and ultimately murder billions . The Planet is neither unique)( we know of many now) nor is it endangered. What is at stake is Human(e) civilisation, which the disciples of Orwell and Malthus cannot abide.
The Space Option may succeed in giving our children a new frontier of Hope, aspiration and opportunity - or, it may not.
The one thing that can be said with certainty of an Earthbound civilisation gripped by shortages of Energy, Liberty and Resources engineered by ideological Green zealots is that it will fail, even in its own terms, and will ruin the rest of us en passant.

What a no brainer!

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