Publishing has changed in a very short time and there’s no turning back. Technology has seen to that. Companies like Amazon publish and sell from all sources (and Amazon has its own imprints and indie services). But what is to become of the traditional publishing houses? Take a clue from retail and restaurants: Many are beginning to abandon the giant-warehouse model or overbuilt-shopping areas for indie-ish stores and smaller markets. Perhaps big publishers will be looking to similarly reinvent?
Long a student of the history of space exploration, I knew of the Operation Paperclip (often called Project Paperclip) to bring rocket scientists to the U.S. after WWII from Germany. Never thought much about it until more studies on WWII and the Cold War started to reveal more about these scientists. Not all were innocents caught up in their nation’s war.
Some were part of the Nazi Machine.
Indeed, even when it was exposed in the ’40s that hundreds of these scientists, doctors and engineers were coming to America, protest was raised. It was largely too late. Records were scrubbed and classified. The people themselves remained quiet and evasive on the subject of their past until their death. While some Nazis to this day are hunted down in their old age, some were allowed to be free, in the open. Perhaps the most bizarre example of cognitive dissonance ever known, and widely at that. But most don’t know the whole story.
Annie Jacobsen remedies this in her new book, Operation Paperclip: The Secret Program that Brought Nazi Scientists to America. She isn’t the first to write on Paperclip, but perhaps the most thorough. She has brought new materials to light as more has become unclassified and through interviews with Paperclip family members and others with first hand knowledge.
I thought I knew a lot about the program, I didn’t. The twisted policy of chasing down prison guards in their 90s while other individuals were in effect acquitted. Some became American heroes. I have read of Von Braun and other rocket scientists who oversaw the V-2 production sites were thousands of prisoner-slaves died, but many know little of this. Jacobsen’s account will force you to look at our space heroes quite differently.
It wasn’t just the builders of rockets, however. Doctors involved in the Reich’s human experiments, experts in chemical and biological warfare and others were also spirited away by Paperclip. Most of these men lead productive lives contributing to our country. Others, though, were part of questionable state-sponsored activities here. In either case, Jacobsen writes this for us to ponder:
The question remains, despite a man’s contribution to a nation or people, how do we interpret fundamental wrong? Is the American government at fault equally for fostering myths about its Paperclip scientists — for encouraging them to whitewash their past…When, for a nation, should the end justify the means?
Thought of the day from Neila Rey:
“Who you are is not written in stone, it’s not set until you decide it is, you create and reinvent yourself every single day, with every single effort over and over again, until you like who you are and until you are happy with the person you have become, inside and out.”
We often equate science with facts and laws of nature, therefore we tend to hold writings couched in scientific lingo in high regard. To a fault we have become too trusting and forget that people write or say these things and people have agendas (purposefully or not). Yes, this is going to be one of those critical thinking posts (I know, it doesn’t quite fit with the theme of the site anymore, but I still occasionally touch on these topics).
Not that the abuse of science is anything new, but it seems to me like it’s becoming more prevalent. With technology so pervasive, we think we know science and trust anything that sounds vaguely like it. That can be a mistake. Take this article on “Finding Israel’s First Camels.” Innocent sounding enough, isn’t it? But very quickly we see an agenda materialize when we read, “Their findings further emphasize the disagreements between Biblical texts and verifiable history.” So is this on an archaeological find or a theological debate?
Reading further we don’t really learn about claimed “disagreements” other than, “archaeologists have shown that camels were not domesticated in the Land of Israel until centuries after the Age of the Patriarchs (2000-1500 BCE). In addition to challenging the Bible’s historicity, this anachronism is direct proof that the text was compiled well after the events it describes.” This is quite the statement and one would expect serious proof, yet the authors of this report don’t do this. The careful reader will note that they base their claim on the assumption that they have found the oldest camel remains.
The rational reader then will ask, “How could they possibly know they have found the oldest remains?” Well, they cannot, but these finds support their particular view of the Bible, so why bother with logic? Amazingly, this article actually waves a couple of red flags on its own:
“In all the digs, they found that camel bones were unearthed almost exclusively in archaeological layers dating from the last third of the 10th century BCE or later…The few camel bones found in earlier archaeological layers probably belonged to wild camels…the origin of the domesticated camel is probably the Arabian Peninsula…In fact, Dr. Ben-Yosef and Dr. Sapir-Hen say the first domesticated camels ever to leave the Arabian Peninsula may now be buried in the Aravah Valley. [emphasis added]“
Almost? Probably? May? And so they did find “earlier” remains that are “probably” wild?
Wow. This is the “science” that leads to the proclamation that “the Bible’s historicity” is challenged?
I don’t think the Bible has much to worry about here (and others have pointed out that the researchers above have ignored other research outside of Israel). My goal here isn’t to start a fight between “believers” and “non-believers,” but to show that conclusions couched in science or coming from scientists doesn’t mean we should not test their claims. Often, as with this example, it is not that hard. Another recent example was the recent Bill Nye vs. Ken Ham spectacle, portrayed as some great intellectual moment between science and religion.
It was more between two people who promote the “science and religion” aren’t compatible myth, albeit from different ends of the spectrum. One thinks science can’t see into the past (Ham), the other thinks science too dumb to detect design (Nye). Funny, I look at the Sun and see it as it was eight minutes ago and archaeology and forensics detect design every day.
These are the best we have to debate serious issues? They are not, but serious doesn’t sell.
We should be concerned that science and theology are so easily hijacked. Those who are well-schooled in the issues often don’t want to jump into the fray, they have better things to do. We cannot, however, give up on science, critical thinking and flushing out those who abuse these things and other higher fields of learning such as theology. We’ve let the few, the entertaining, and the media take over our learning for far too long.
Pope John Paul II said it best with, “Science can purify religion from error and superstition; religion can purify science from idolatry and false absolutes.”
Yes, seriously. In case you haven’t heard, private companies have been entering spaceflight (two are currently supplying the International Space Station, with others getting closer to providing flights into space for citizens). Settlement of the Final Frontier has taken a huge leap right under people’s noses. Now, Mars One is planning the next steps: Unmanned and manned missions to Mars. They are raising money for the first missions through crowdfunding. They are close to their goal, so be part of history.
Be part of humankind’s next Adventure.
Why do people love fictional stories and adventures so much? Because they mirror what is inside us. A desire to do to great things and go beyond the horizon. Do what we were meant to be. There is destiny written on our souls for us to choose or ignore. Jason Clark writes in his book Surrendered and Untamed on this discovery:
I no longer desire to be on the fringe, yet neither will I try to fit the mold. I’ve come to see there’s swimming against the stream just to swim against the stream. And then there’s swimming against the stream like the salmon do — to give others life so others might live — and to get back home. You face predators along the way and the trip is exhausting and you die a thousand deaths, but you do it for the glory and the story.
When I was a kid it was possible for boys to kill evil giants and men to walk on water. When I was a kid it was possible to live inside a whale, a raging fire and a lions den. When I was a kid it was possible to pray for the sick and watch them recover. Shadows could heal, and the dead could be raised. When I was a kid I believed that with God, all impossibilities were possible.
But now Clark, as an adult, finds that this wonder has been turned into “tamed three point sermons.”
Even if you’re not a religious person, I think most people will get what Clark is writing about. We grow up searching for purpose, our story, make grand plans and think great ideas. Nothing is impossible. The wonder of life and creation is still with us. Then, one day, we wake up in a land that looks nothing like what we imagined.
Reality, some people call it. Life.
These are excuses. And not very good ones.
Sometimes it takes time to find our part in the Story. Everything conspires to put a stop to uncovering what we were meant to be or do. Forces in the world want us to give up, throw in the towel. Every once in awhile there are glimpses of where we should be. Memories. The sunset. The stars. Children who have yet been trained to give up, forget and not see.
Here’s to never giving up. Being revolutionary. Standing up to the status quo and those who say you cannot or should not, or won’t ever be.
Find your story. Don’t stop until you do. Ever.
I’ve long been a supporter of space exploration. It is often one of the few bright spots in the world of government-funded programs. However, I have come to realize that it’s that same government that has crippled our ventures in the final frontier. Nearly every new president rolls out a new “vision” for NASA, often discarding whatever the previous leader had promoted. Funding is just potential “get votes” for visionless Congress and has largely been stagnate as they prefer to send money to other countries or bailout only the companies that support them. So space exploration moves along in fits and starts. I was pleased to see that Apollo 11 astronaut Buzz Aldrin largely shares these views in his new book Mission to Mars.
For decades, Buzz has championed our expansion in space and in this new book discusses how our government-run program has both succeeded and failed. He also sees the recent growth in private efforts in space travel as a new turning point on the frontier. This is indeed correct, and creating an environment where these efforts can continue to thrive and expand is critical. NASA has already begun relying on private industry to supply the International Space Station. Soon they will deliver astronauts and companies have begun using the facilities that once launched the shuttles. NASA has laid the groundwork, now the people must take over. If they do, space will no longer be the realm of the few.
Buzz details how NASA shouldn’t be tied up in returning people to the Moon. Certainly they should be involved in technology transfer, training, design and U.S. participation, but their main thrusts should be elsewhere. They went to the Moon 45 years ago. Time to trailblaze elsewhere. And that place is Mars.
The Apollo veteran outlines his cycler design which would put spacecraft in continuous flight between Mars and Earth. It’s an ingenious design that uses physics and reusable vehicles. Is it the only option? No, and he briefly mentions the Mars Direct plan that Robert Zubrin laid out years ago. It uses current technology and in-situ use of resources on Mars to drastically lower costs of a mission. It was the baseline for NASA plans for a time. Buzz’s plan has some overlap with Zubrin’s, though I think both can be used. Mars Direct is still the simplest way for early missions to reach Mars. Later, it could be used in tandem with cyclers to increase travel opportunities to Mars (and I’m sure technology will improve both methods, see Case for Mars for more on Mars Direct).
We also read on the potential of mining asteroids and the real need to detect and deflect ones that threaten Earth. Buzz’s plan to first land humans on the Martian moon Phobos before Mars seems an unnecessary detour, though the satellite does have potential for the outposts he describes. He implores that whomever is president in 2019 to use the 50th Anniversary of Apollo 11 to commit to a Mars mission. I think this would be another empty vision from our politicians who cannot see past another election cycle. There is no Cold War to drive the project. Just as the people are taking over spaceflight, travel beyond our world will be up to them as well (perhaps Mars One).
NASA will surely be a part of it and maybe enough forward-thinking people exist in our government to support it. They can justify it anyway they want to: Jobs, technology, education, exploration, resources. It would certainly be a huge step forward against all of our steps backwards.
In 1989, Buzz stood on stage as President George Bush put forth a plan to reach Mars in 2019. The poorly conceived plan went no where. Now we are talking about announcing a mission in 2019 that won’t even happen for many years after. That, to me, isn’t very visionary. We need to get past the government-style pushing off the future to some indeterminate time that often never arrives. Buzz asks, “America, do you still dream great dreams?”