A science genius deserves better by celebratingsagan.com
Stay "til the end -- and a rich payoff of Carl Sagan's gemlike
insights. A little clean-up work
first, to clear the palate.
I don't regularly read Wash. Post's Charles Krauthammer (CK, as in crank), often regret when I do, ending with gnashing teeth. From time to time, perplexity or hilarity moves me to the dark side, hunting out the loopy logic behind he latest fringe skullduggery. I used to read that wily conservative wordsmith, Peggy Noonan -- a far better stylist -- until I gagged at her unctuous Vatican sycophancy.
So, I brightened suspiciously at Krauthammer's seemingly apolitical title, "Are we alone in the universe?" Ah-ah, I guessed, are greedy oligarchs, having written off the Middle East quagmire, reigniting manifest destiny into space? Doesn't commerce that follows expansion, like Columbus or our interminable invasions, pay back venture capital that ventures far and wide? Imagine the military cash blast from space voyaging, as in W.'s fantasy pitch for actual Mars landings. What overstretched empire desperate for a larger purpose wouldn't drool to conquer the moon, awarding itself an armed catbird seat to spot evildoers "from above," like gods?
CK opens with confusion, puzzled why we haven't yet found intelligent life elsewhere despite the huge sample pool -- billions of stars, an infinity of solar systems. I was itching to hear him pontificate about not finding intelligent life scattered across his own party's goofy field of candidates. But no, instead the Crank posited that advanced civilizations are rare because they self-destruct, ironically killed off by their own "intelligence." And then the shocker: he cited the hallowed authority of Carl Sagan. Sans any proof or citation. Right, sounds just like the scientist Sagan I recall, the indefatigable founder of the whole SETI program -- the Search for Extraterrestrial Life. Why would this incredible space enthusiast waste decades and large budgets if he believed there was nothing to find? The world's most famous scientist of his generation wrote a book called "Intelligent Life in the Universe."
Finally, out of this Krauthammer morass emerges this leap of logic, a defense of rational, life-affirming politics:
if we don't get politics right, everything else risks extinction . . . in all its grubby, grasping, corrupt, contemptible manifestations --[politics] is sovereign in human affairs. Everything ultimately rests upon it. Fairly or not, politics is the driver of history. It will determine whether we will live long enough to be heard one day. Out there. By them, the few -- the only -- who got it right.
Is this it, a covert campaign pitch, implying redemption, indeed survival, depends wholly on smarter politicians? How can he blithely ignore a contradiction the size of Jupiter? How can politics be "sovereign" when CK's own frantic fringe, the creeps who defy compromise on national debt or paying our bills, torpedo the process. Where's the illusory sovereignty of politics when the right holds only contempt for unhinged, lying liberals? How can CK evoke politics when his demented fellows play demotion derby, denigrating huge threats like global warming or worldwide pollution plus any sort of political solutions? Right, the sovereignty of politics drowned in a bathtub.