On 20nd July 1969 a man of Scottish Ancestry stepped onto the moon, to view a desolate landscape above which rose a small blue disc: a beautiful planet, an isolated lonely planet, set against the utter blackness of space.
This was a new perspective, a new global perspective and it was this global perspective which gave rise to the world wide environmental movement. Moreover it was the space race itself, the cold war of space, the impending doom of nuclear annihilation which galvanised this environmental movement.
In 1969, NASA was heralded as the triumph of science, today NASA is the home of Hansen and the centre for climate alarmism. I do not think these are unconnected.
In a real sense I was a child of the space age, my father was director of the rocket tracking station in Australia, but I have no delusions about the space race, looking back there is now no doubt in my mind that these missions had little to do with science, indeed almost none of the astronauts had any science training and only one was a geologist. The moon landings were political. They were like the metaphorical peacocks feathers: displaying the virility of US science and industry intended to send the clearest message to USSR military at all levels, that the USSR could not win a war against the US.
NASA was always part of the arms race, NASA was set up using German V1 rocket technology and despite alleged war crimes: German rocket scientists. WWII changed the nature of science. It may have been the engineering and economic might of the UK and US that won the war, but the US were convinced the next war would be won with German rocket science.
Science was totally revamped: gone was the gentlemen’s club of “natural philosophy”, in was factory style organisation with division such as “theoretical” and applied, and new terms like blue sky research. Science was no longer to be something one thought about – out was any philosophy, it was something you did. UK & US science became a sausage machine: working well when producing run of the mill science in established subjects, but nothing like the hand crafted item of old and certainly without their knowledge that allowed them to adapt science to new areas. Science was dumbed down, removing the philosophical base that allowed introspection and self-knowledge and a literal understanding Nullius in verba. In its place came new science where science is the act of measurement and science-like interpretation, full of misplaced arrogance leading to delusion about its own ability, particularly its ability to act beyond its own experience in new areas like the climate.
Whilst NASA undoubtedly did good science (e.g. satellites) there is no doubt in my mind that NASA needed this new “science” not for the science, but to publicly justify the huge cost of what was clearly another part of the cold war. The dominance of pseudo-sciences struck me when in my archaeology course I was doing some research into the use of infra red for satellite imaging. I was looking forward to climate-free reading, but time and time and time again I found the papers I was reading were ecological or climate based. Why of all the subjects that could use satellite imagery (archaeology, surveying, mining, etc.) was ecology and climate “science” so all pervasive? It wasn’t just one or two papers, but dozens even hundreds of ecological papers each trying to ascribe another meaning to what was in reality just the one shade of a black and white pixel. How could so many papers try to ascribe so many different meanings to the same pixel: vegetative cover, moisture, temperature, evaporation … one pixel so many meanings? It was bizarre and obviously flawed.
How could people who were supposedly “scientists” fail to realise that one single colour could only have one meaning and not their multitude of interpretations? Something had created this pseudo-scientific ecological/climate monster, and I believe satellite imagery showed that in large part that something was NASA: a huge budget needing to provide a publicly acceptable and that meant scientific rational for all that money spent on space research.
What appears to have happened, is that NASA was given the money to buy scientific credibility, and in so doing, it funded a massive program of pseudo-scientific research trawling its data to provide media friendly publicity. NASA didn’t act alone, but it certainly had the funding and the need to promote these pseudo-sciences. NASA needed ecologists, not for the ecology, but in order to show that there was a “nice” reason and not just a military reason for all those space launches and satellites. NASA needed this research to provide a thin veneer of scientific credibility, just as much as the ecologists needed the free access the new satellite technology to prove how much damage we humans were doing.
When optical imagery was available, they started to map vegetative cover (presumably as a cover for all the military mapping), then, as infra-red became available, they began to build up pictures of the earth’s temperature adding to the data from ice-cores. NASA gave credibility to “pseudo-sciences” like ecology and climate “science”, that and NASA and other similar institutions like the Antarctic survey created a breeding ground for this “science” and that I believe is the root of the problem we face.
WWII changed the nature of science and removed the philosophical foundation, the global perspective and anti-nuclear campaigns fostered global ecology. NASA needed these new pseudo-sciences which nurtured a group of subjects with a new “off-earth” perspective, using the new tools of satellite imagery, and with easy access to massive government budgets ready to fund anything evenly remotely science-like in an environment:
NASA, where “science” was not justified by the science, but by the politics.