All indications are that the space shuttle Columbia, NASA’s oldest shuttle, has broken up on rentry with no survivors. Sickeningly, CBC Newsworld, a Canadian news magazine, interviewed writer Robert Sawyer and allegedly asked him if “American arrogance” was the cause of this tragedy. ModerateLeft has a response to the charges of “arrogance.”
Well, if this is arrogance — exploring space for science, pushing the envelope of the human experience, doing what our species has always done — then I support it. If it is arrogant to want to learn, we are arrogant. If it is arrogant to want to explore, we are arrogant. If it is arrogant to risk our lives for the possibility of a better future for all mankind, we are arrogant.
Mankind is arrogant. We believe foolish things — that we may one day cure cancer, that we may one day develop new forms of energy, that we may one day walk on Mars. We believe these foolish things, and we dedicate ourselves to achieving them. How ridiculous. How arrogant.
And people die for these things. And people are injured for life. The astronauts of Apollo 1, and the Challenger, and now, sadly, the Columbia have died for the arrogant belief that we can be more than we are, that we can walk on the moon, that we can touch the stars.
This arrogance is not American in nature. It is human. It is human arrogance that led us from the veldt of Africa to the ice-bound wastelands of Europe, across the Bering Strait into the Americas, across oceans to Australia and Oceana. It is human arrogance that leads thousands of people to live in the frigid environment of Antarctica, that leads explorers to dive miles under the oceans in bathyscapes.
This arrogance is our species’ birthright. It is what defines us. If we were not arrogant, we never would have flown. We never would have domesicated the horse. We would have died in the caves, unwilling to strive to be more than we are.
So call us arrogant for building the space shuttle. Call the men and woman who gave their lives today arrogant for believing they could fly to space and return to tell about it. But don’t call us wrong. For this arrogance defines humanity. And I would rather our species be arrogant than afraid.
Back-to-Iraq’s thoughts and sympathies go out to the families and friends of the crew. This is just such a tragedy.