I saw a conversation on social media yesterday that I felt compelled to write about. The discussion was around NASA spending money on science, space exploration and related technologies.
The debate revolved around a simple question. Is spending billions on such scientific endeavours moral in a world where poverty is rife?
Spending Money on Science – The Plight of Our Modern World
We all know that there are millions of people who struggle to get even basic nourishment. Starvation and disease are still major problems in many places around the world.
Even in our own country, we have not resolved the problems of homelessness and malnourishment. We have families dependant on food banks, how can that be in our modern 21st century world?
I can understand the opinions of those who believe investments in science would be better utilised elsewhere. Can we in good conscience spend money on launching a craft into space when people are in need on our own planet?
Looking at the Technological Lives we Lead
Let’s not forget that spending money on science and research has changed the lives of so many for the better. It’s easy to forget that we lead an existence in which the work of scientific minds has been indispensable.
NASA was instrumental in engineering many things we take for granted:
– Breathing apparatus for the fire service is based on tech designed to make space suits smaller. The breathers used prior to these advances were enormous and difficult to carry.
– The most efficient solar technologies are based on work carried out by NASA for the space program. Solar cells are also instrumental in the fight against global warming.
– Lasers used in life saving heart surgeries were originally invented at NASA to monitor atmospheric gases. This has been of huge benefit to patients and made these procedures considerably safer.
– Life support machines are the descendants of technology crafted to monitor the physiological status of astronauts. Millions of people owe their lives to this technology.
– Work is also currently in progress at NASA on using bacteria to purify water. This could have profound benefits for communities in developing countries too.
Those are only a few examples among many. Science must also be credited for our better medical care and increasing lifespans.
Governments Waste Resources on Far Worse Things
To reiterate, I can see how concerns over spending money on science are born. But I argue that our governments and even certain individuals are spending your tax pounds on far worse.
In 2017 the UK government defence budget will top £45.6 billion. We also have a decision looming on renewing the Trident nuclear defences. A project that will run up a bill in the tens of billions of pounds.
The NHS spends millions of pounds each year on interest payments. Money that could certainly be going on improved health care. Instead it lines the pockets of private companies and hedge fund managers.
Our government has committed support for a new nuclear power station on our shores. Fusion research or other renewable energy sources would surely have been a better focus for investment.
Religious institutions the world over spend incalculable sums of money on fine fabrics, gold and even invest in the tobacco industry. These are the areas of society from which we should be demanding better practice.
Spending Money on Science – Part of the Solution
If the past few centuries of speedy scientific advancement have taught us anything, it’s that such breakthroughs improve lives. I’d bet many of you have family members who owe their lives to science in one way or another.
I accept that issues of morality and conscience stain the record of scientific endeavour. Animal experimentation and abuse is still a problem. Understanding in physics and chemistry led to development of weapons that changed the face of our world.
It is science however, that has warned us about the gross abuses of antibiotics in farming. Science has also opened the eyes of the masses to the damaging effect of fossil fuels. Even if some naysayers still refuse to listen.
We can travel the world, then store the memories in a box that fits in our hands. Communicate with loved ones on the other side of the planet, instantly. One of my friends is alive because medical science saved his life.
I think spending money on science is part of the solution the world needs.
It’s wasting funds on weapons and walls that’s the real problem.