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There is one thing that makes me more angry than dishonest sanctimony. That would be gutless, dishonest sanctimony. After NASA backed a study by Mathematician Safa Montesharrei with all the technological firepower that America’s tax base could buy them, the agency now wants to disown that study’s conclusion. This should not be permitted. If NASA lacks the moral courage to demand Montesharrei’s immediate retraction; they own the male bovine scatology they chose to fund.
You see Safa Montesharrei has concluded that Modern American society is going to collapse from resource overuse and social inequality. This sort of Malthusian-cum-Marxian boilerplate would be boring and uncontroversial in and of itself. Most of the taxpaying American Upper Middle Class has nursed a hangover through this sort of hypocritical, sanctimonious secular Jeremiad at least once during their four to six years at some university. The Club of Rome went the way Romulus Augustulus and we’re still here. We’ve all seen Paul Ehrlich unmasked as a charlatan, so why not a few of his acolytes as well? Montesharrei follows his Malthusian doom-saying to its logical conclusions below.
“Technological change can raise the efficiency of resource use, but it also tends to raise both per capita resource consumption and the scale of resource extraction, so that, absent policy effects, the increases in consumption often compensate for the increased efficiency of resource use.”
So this guy just said that spending on high-technology just brings about collapse that much faster. Who do we give money when we the taxpayers want lots of cool technology. Oh yeah, that would be NASA! So has NASA just backed a study to the hilt that argues funding more technology is of questionable moral decency? Have they just helped academically argue that they are a taxpayer-funded part of a disease instead of a cure? Well perhaps NASA asked themselves these same troubling questions. They now remind me of Brave Sir Robin from Monty Python and the Holy Grail.
NASA has issued a clarification about its role in the study, saying that while the study relies on NASA research tools developed for another project, it did not directly solicit, direct, or review Motesharrei’s paper. “As is the case with all independent research, the views and conclusions in the paper are those of the authors alone. NASA does not endorse the paper or its conclusions.”
This is totally inadequate. Absent the tools and resources of NASA, Dr. Montesharrei does not successfully complete his project. NASA knew what he intended and considered it of sound validity until it was made public and people reacted to the contents. NASA can make one of two valid choices here. They can defend this is sound research that they proudly sponsored or they can scorn it and publicly regret that they ever gave the Good Mathematician one red dime’s worth of publicly-funded NASA scientific firepower.
These two choices each come freighted with consequence and externality. This is why NASA seeks the pusillanimous approach of denying they had anything to do with this premature and predictable Malthusian dirge. They disavow their role in that which they made possible. Again this is not acceptable. At the end of the day NASA used a pool of resources somebody else paid for and then denied their culpability for results from those resources being expended.
NASA should be held accountable for its failures and the consequences of its actions. I may like the ideals and goals of NASA far more than I like those of either the NSA or the IRS. However, if I criticize wrongdoing at the NSA, or demand answers when I suspect foul play from the IRS, I have to hold NASA to the same high standard.
NASA gave material and technological support to Dr. Safa Montesharrei’s work. They are obligated to answer for whether it is a success or a failure. To do otherwise is to bring into doubt the continued wisdom or morality of funding NASA’s scientific efforts. Regardless of how awesome it would be for America to have a functional space program again, NASA should still be free of cowardice and corrupt, politicized, junk science.