Neil deGrasse Tyson is probably the last person to suggest NASA falsify the threat of alien invasion to play on humanity’s fears. I also doubt he’d suggest that the space agency exploit America’s religious conservative movement with “proof” that said aliens are governed by demons.
But just for the sake of argument, let’s you and I go there.
Along with my Stuff to Blow Your Mind co-host Julie Douglas, I had the honor of interviewing Dr. Tyson last week on the motivators for space exploration and his upcoming book Space Chronicles.
He stressed that while the whole “exploration is in our DNA” argument is fine and dandy for multibillion-dollar space projects, it simply doesn’t work past the $10 billion funding ceiling. Here’s what he had to say:
The only drivers that really stimulate people to spend money are war and economics—and the third one, which is less common today, is the praise of royalty or deity. There was a day when you could invoke one or both of those and get anything done. You get the pyramids and all the church building in Europe, the cathedrals of England. You could do that if there is a power above you that you fear or you want to praise. But that doesn’t happen much anymore. That leaves war and economics.
In the interview (available here), Tyson goes on to discuss economics. But what about that war option? Rather than engage in another Cold War space race to the moon, why not pull a page from the Orson Welles playbook and fake the threat of an alien invasion? Heck, Noble Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman jests that it might just fix the U.S. economy:
If we discovered that, you know, space aliens were planning to attack and we needed a massive buildup to counter the space alien threat and really inflation and budget deficits took secondary place to that, this slump would be over in 18 months.
We can do better. As Tyson pointed out, the praise of royalty or deity is what really motivates us to get things done. If NASA were to frame the alien threat as a demonic one, might that motivate the U.S. evangelical movement to back space exploration? How else are we going to fund SETI surveillance to intercept satanic dispatches from deep space?
Plus, we should probably send a manned mission to Mars just to make sure the aliens don’t use it as an invasion base.
In an Aug. 24 Fresh Air interview on NPR, author Rachel Tabachnick discussed how politically influential members of the evangelical New Apostolic Reformation believe that demonic forces control the “seven mountains of culture” and must be defeated to ensure God’s rule on this demon-haunted world.
If NASA should prove those demons are headquartered on Kepler-16b, all the better, right? Pass the collection plate.
Originally Posted at HSW: Should NASA fake an interplanetary holy war?
Image credit: heiwa4126/Creative Commons
Robert Lamb is a senior staff writer at HowStuffWorks.com and co-host of the Stuff to Blow Your Mind podcast and blog. He is also a regular contributor to Discovery News. Follow him on Twitter @blowthemind.