L. Neil Smith's
THE LIBERTARIAN ENTERPRISE
Number 244, October 26, 2003
"We're throwing away the future"
Re: Where Do We Go From Here?* by L. Neil Smith
Good for Mr. Smith on his aims to found the "Space Scouts", or whatever they may eventually be called.
The quote from the Discover reader's letter called to mind something I've had against the scientific establishment for some time; how sure they seem to be that something is impossible. Even the very language is telling: "...travel...is impossible...too much fuel...not feasible ...torn apart...no fuel in space...not...attain the speed it needs..." And, most significant of all, "...what's the use..."
Any of us who ponder these matters would do well to remember the dismal record that Science (the establishment, not the magazine) has when the discussion turns to what is possible. Let us consider the history of flight. For hundreds of years, established science said that man would never fly like a bird. Then the Montgolfier brothers demonstrated their balloons before Louis XVI in 1783. On the defensive, Science said "No, no! We said man would never fly LIKE A BIRD! All this balloon stuff is cheating. A heavier than air craft cannot be made to fly. It's scientific fact!" No less a luminary than Lord Kelvin, president of the Royal Society of London, stated flatly that heavier than air flight was an impossibility.
Onward 120 years: two brothers, this time named Wright, worked the kinks out and actual powered flight, "like a bird", became fact, in 1903.
Of course Science had to be dragged, kicking and screaming. The Wrights were called liars, phonies. The Smithsonian Institution dismissed the Wrights as frauds, to the extent that they even refused to accept the historically significant Flyer into the Smithsonian collection (it now resides in a museum in France, and the brain-trust at the Smithsonian has been trying to get it from them ever since). The Wrights MUST be lying. After all, any scientist will tell you that heavier than air flight is impossible. Lord Kelvin, even! Well, Kelvin lived to eat those words.
Okay, says Science, you got us on that one. But, no airplane will ever travel faster than the speed of sound. The speed of sound in an atmosphere is a Limiting Factor (watch for that phrase later). It's a Scientific Fact.
Well, it looked like they might be right for a while. Some of the various attempts to exceed the sound barrier failed, often in spectacular fashion. But not all of them.
Less than 50 years after Kitty Hawk, Chuck Yeager left mach 1 behind in the Bell X-1. Another Scientific Fact bit the dust.
Now, Scientific naysaying has moved to the high frontier. Mankind will never reach the stars. Cryogenics is impossible due to cellular disruption. Cosmic radiation will prove lethal. The various propulsion schemes are not feasible, use too much fuel, too fragile, etc., (see above). And, most of all, faster than light travel is impossible! Scientific Fact, don't you know. The speed of light is a Limiting Factor (sound familiar?). Nothing can travel faster than the speed of light. Einstein proved it. And since he's dead, there's no arguing with him.
I don't remember where I read this, might even have been in Dilbert: don't they know you cannot logically show that something can't be done? You can only show it hasn't been done YET.
Brothers and sisters, if inventors gave up every time some hands-in- pockets onlooker said the I-word, we'd still be walking everyplace, or forcing an animal to do the walking for us. And sending messages by Pony Express. And there would be no such thing as a "moving picture".
Capital-S Science is the enemy of innovation and progress, in virtually every case. What really makes me wonder, and then makes me angry, is this; how many aspiring inventors took their idea or their prototype to a Scientist, innocently expecting to be congratulated, only to be laughed at? How many, not stubborn enough, gave up? How many wonderful machines were never built? How many fabulous inventions has Science cost us? How much real progress has Science consigned to the ash-heap of obscurity?
Depend on Science to get us to the stars? Not me. It will happen, have no fear. But it will happen in spite of, not because of Science. Some guy or gal, with wild eyes and bed-head hair, will land their anti-gravity platform on the podium during a NASA press conference, and, if they're not locked up as a terrorist, will direct us to their website, where they have posted plans so we can build our own.
Impossible, you say? Don't bet on it. History is on our side.
People who say something cannot be done should not interrup those who are making it happen.
Dear Mr. Weiner,
My name is Brian Korner, I am a producer at FoxNews.com. Recently, I have begun a series of Audio pieces on Minor Party politics. Currently, I am working on a piece about the Free State Project. I am looking for a contrary voice and I hoped that you might know someone willing to speak against it.
I would like to conduct a phone interview, within the next week or so. Please contact me at my office or reply to this email. My desk number is (xxx) xxx-xxxx.
Flight From Eden by Kathryn A. Graham. In a near-future dystopian United States, a small group finds an unusual way to overcome betrayal, capture, torture and death in order to resist tyranny and free their beloved nation. The sequel, The Liberation,is expected to release in summer of 2004.