What If We Celebrated Science Like the Olympics?

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About Jeff Cohen

Jeff Cohen is a freelance writer and novelist, a father and a husband. He tries to be a good man. Others will have to determine how well he succeeds. You can find him at @jeffcohenwriter on Twitter and on Facebook, and he blogs on Mondays at Hey, There's a Dead Guy in the Living Room, which examines crime fiction from all sides. His hobbies include speaking about himself in the third person.

Comments

  1. Nori Bommel says:

    Great article, and I couldn’t agree more.
    However, I must admit that I can’t help wondering if it would really have been that hard to find one, just ONE woman to include in the last paragraph. I’m sure with a few minutes of research, you could have come up with a role model for little girls as well.

    • I would have been happy to include women in that last paragraph, but that was the list of mission commanders (that might not be the exact title), and there were no women included. There are women involved, and I wish there were more.

  2. wellokaythen says:

    I agree with the sentiment, but I have to disagree with the depiction of “science.” NASA does contribute to the body of scientific knowledge, no question, but landing something on Mars is not primarily a scientific achievement. It’s an engineering achievement, with some secondary scientific aspects, maybe.

    Saying NASA has scientific achievements is sort of like saying Olympic athletes have endorsement achievements. Or like saying that Olympic swimmers have shaving achievements. Well, sort of, but is that fundamentally what it’s all about?

    Putting people into space is not really a scientific achievement, but primarily a political and ideological one. Astronauts do conduct scientific experiments, but that is generally not why they are celebrated as heroes. (They are generally more like lab techs in the shuttle more than primary investigators.) Neil Armstrong is not famous for science, but for an activity that had virtually no scientific usefulness. China is not building a space program primarily to advance the course of scientific knowledge.

    Science also requires sharing data on experiments that are reproducible, and being transparent about how you get your information. Considering how much defense work NASA does that it can’t talk about, that’s hardly scientific either.

    I would say the Nobel Prize is a better example.

    • One of NASA’s primary reasons for existing has always been to contribute to the body of scientific knowledge and to provide platforms which enable others to do so. Although it’s often co-opted for defense work or publicity stunts (i.e. putting people in space), I think discounting NASA’s contributions to science does the organization a disservice. I mean, Hubble alone revolutionized parts of astrophysics and that’s just cherrypicking one of NASA’s more high-profile projects.

      Take the example used in this article, the Curiosity mission. Just one of the many purposes for launching the rover is investigating initial reports of water on Mars in an attempt to ascertain whether it could have once harbored life. The mission, as with almost all NASA missions, is primarily scientific. I mean, let’s think critically. Would NASA spend billions of dollars simply to prove they could choreograph and execute an extraordinarily complex landing maneuver because they, I dunno, wanted to flex their engineering biceps? The point of the mission wasn’t to deposit the rover, we just haven’t gotten any data back yet, so only the part of the mission that’s reportable – the landing – gets any press.

      To call NASA merely a vehicle to put people in space sounds to me like we’re discounting the vast amount of work the organization has done since the moon landings. Notice the author didn’t mention any astronauts in his final paragraph, and that’s because you’re right – they are just the lab techs. The people he mentioned lead multiyear missions that add significantly to human understanding of the universe’s working and history.

Trackbacks

  1. [...] (Quote Source) Makes sense to me. What if we did celebrate science, education, and environmental achievements like we celebrate, critique, sponsor, and invest in the Olympics? Would be an interesting one wouldn’t it? I wonder what it would mean for global progress on issues of economics, success, justice, and faith if we were so bold. More [...]

  2. [...] have a new article at the Good Men Project, asking, What if we celebrated science like we do the Olympics? Also, one on the lack of male role models in comedy–take a [...]

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