Julie Spector (02/11/04)
I think the most important discussions we had in class were on the social reasons driving exploration, as well as the relationship between science and religion. I had never even considered Carl Sagan or Jim Lovell as parallels. Going into class, I thought highly of Sagan's public presence, even though I knew other scientists had disdain for it. Yet Sagan always advocated critical thinking, and so always demonstrated to the non scientific public that the whole point of science is to objectively analyze the universe. If a scientist proves a celebrated theory wrong, then that's great, because the essence of scientific thought and practice is embodied in that proof (read his The Demon Haunted World for more info). So even if Sagan were wrong about extraterrestrial life, I think he'd still be happy since science demonstrated the truth of the matter (personally, I'd bet lots of money that he was right). However, I went into class thinking that Lovell was an idiot for deluding himself and the non scientific world. I failed to realize that Lovell truly believed in his science as accurate science, and so I must now give him credit (which is what class showed me). Lovell also deserves credit for inspiring a most likely incredible number of people to want to become scientists and do so, or at the very least, to learn about science. The question remains, would Lovell have appreciated the science that disproved his ideas?
I highly enjoyed the religious discussion, particularly the religion/bacteria comment (it was very humorous). Because organized religion is so persistent in its survival and presence. And while I may disapprove of some its tenets, it's a shame for some scientists to be so dogmatic in contributing to building a wall between science and organized religion (just as it's a shame for some organized religious people to help contribute to the wall). Why can't the two extremists just shut up and work together? Because their common goal is, well, common: to explain and glorify the universe.I think we should definitely keep discussing reasons why our culture is so fascinated with advanced, intelligent life forms on Mars.