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What is a Space Cynic?

The Space Cynics are a group of people who have banded together to fight the forces of gullibility, boosterism, and nonsense that plague the space community.

You know who you are.

We are NOT anti-space. We are anti-Koolaid.

For more info and our views on being a Space Cynic, go back to the beginning….

Comments»

1. Louise - August 4, 2007

I have several questions:
Have any of the Space Cynics been guilty in the past of either of your mantra’s “Gullibility, boosterism and nonsense”? So is it more ‘learning from your mistakes’?

Did you know cynicism is an unproductive trait? In fact, the Australian Government is obliged (well in NSW in any case) to run courses for staff members to combat cynicism?

Keep the work going – I am amazed at how much time is spent by the Cynics ranting and raving :-)

2. Shubber Ali - August 6, 2007

I don’t think so – I believe it is more a combination of:
a) “those who don’t learn from history are doomed to repeat it” and we seem to be the only ones who have actually bothered to read the history books so we have to keep pointing out why the more things change the more they stay the same
b) plain old fashioned common sense – economics is economics, and it’s generally a good idea to take the laws of supply and demand into account when making wild prognostications, which we regularly see in the alt.space community (see the “trillion dollar asteroid” for example…)

Did you know cynicism is an unproductive trait? In fact, the Australian Government is obliged (well in NSW in any case) to run courses for staff members to combat cynicism?

Ah, I see. Citing the example of government as to defining what is good..? That’s funny. And cynicism is not an unproductive trait. In fact, it can help prevent people from spending hours or years on unproductive activities if they would simply be a little more cynical. Cynicism might have saved some of those idiots now being foreclosed upon in the US housing market if they had, gee, I dunno, maybe questioned how realistic a 3% ARM would be for a long term financing option on their overpriced McMansion..?

Keep the work going – I am amazed at how much time is spent by the Cynics ranting and raving

We neither rant, nor rave. We just skewer.

3. Monte Davis - August 7, 2007

I’m not a certified Space Cynic, but I’m sympathetic — and yes, I was most definitely gullible and boosterish in the 1960s as a space-loving teen-ager… and, for much of the 1970s, as a science writer fully expecting the pace of the space-race days to resume Real Soon Now.

It was a slow and painful process first to grow out of that expectation, and then (more difficult) to understand how that expectation in others — space enthusiasts, politicians, NASA planners — has in fact made progress slower rather than faster over the last 35 years.

Intuition and hope say “space is vast and promising, so we need to go fast.” Experience and reflection say “Approaching a marathon as a series of 100-yard dashes is not likely to work out very well.”

4. Louise - August 8, 2007

What springs to mind here is: It takes one to know one. Otherwise you would not be able to talk with any authority on the subject.

So a ‘Space Tragic’ is only a person who is trying to set up a space business, with in your opinion, idiotic concepts not related to economics? So you can’t just have a whole heap of fun (remembering that all fun things use money!)

Might I also remind you that you are showing your age? As a Gen Y, I wouldn’t be using words like ‘tragic’ or ‘kool-aid’.

5. Louise - August 10, 2007

“What is a cynic? A man who knows the price of everything and the value of nothing.” Oscar Wilde

That ends the debate.

6. TomsRants - September 16, 2007

…only if you believe Wilde was right…I would disagree.

7. Trevor Sproston - September 22, 2007

“What is a cynic? A passionate person who just doesn’t want to be disappointed anymore.” Anon.

8. Petrea Rasmussen - September 24, 2007

I admit it … I’m fed up with the hallucinogenic Kool-Aid that’s been passed around for more than 30 years now. That’s my bias, and I’m sticking to it.

Caught up in the monumental possibilities enabled by an evolving system for access to and utilization of space, I’ve lived through the entire period that has been called “The Space Age”. The first several years, my hopes and expectations were immense. Until the Apollo Applications turned into the Shuttle. It’s been a downhill slide since then for both my hope and for the demonstrated accomplishments for space utilization. My passion, however, has responded inversely to our ever-decreasing ability to get to and use space.

What is a Space Cynic? Before answering that, there must be a consensus of definition. It is a word with roots so ancient that gross variation exists within the English-speaking population of its meaning. It is not trivial to demand that we understand each others lexicon before we can have a substantial and objective debate. Louise, in comment above, has astutely observed that “cynicism” is considered an employee behavior requiring corrective training. Unfortunately, I found that the label of “cynic” is most often ignorantly applied to one who is seen as “not a team player”. In fact, most who are labeled “cynics” by their colleagues are actually the most intensely intelligent and honestly critical amongst them. Superficially, so-labeled “cynics” are seen as simple, chronically dissatisfied complainers since those reporting the behavior in others cannot distinguish between that and critical, eye-opening cynicism.

Another label to consider would be “Space Skeptic”, although skepticism is no better understood by the majority of people and, usually, is used as a synonym for cynicism. By definition, a philosophical skeptic chooses to critically examine previously accepted knowledge or perceptions – they point out what we need to look at to make sure it will work. Also, by definition, a cynic critically questions the status quo and points out what won’t work.

So, what is a Space Cynic to me? With regard to activities relating to space, public and private, I agree that gullibility, boosterism and nonsense seem to prevail. It has come from almost all the players – from NASA officials to start-up privateers, from the US government to respected non-profit corporations. Much of this has such a high price tag, and little in common with day-to-day lives, that the subject is an emotional touch point. As such, the Space Cynic is one who’s mission is to combat such blatant and universal evils, in the context of space activities, by bringing them to light for examination.

Saving unsophisticated commoners from falling for hyperbole and investing their retirement funds in hopeless schemes is noble. But it shouldn’t end there. The Space Cynic would do further service to the whole species if established dogma and paradigms of all space activities, large and small, were also dragged into the light for examination.

The Space Cynic rattles our cage, rocks the boat and shakes open our collective eyes to see what’s accepted without question, what’s not right, and what’s not working. The specifics, then, are to be taken up by the Space Skeptic who then tests veracity by endeavoring to disprove each hypothesis previously considered as “law”, “industry standard procedure”, “reasonable assumption”, and the like. Only good can come from this process, as sure as only good comes from finding truth.

9. TomsRants - September 26, 2007

Wow…Petrea…all I can say is…wow. I don’t think any of us could have said it better than that. My hat’s off to you – and thanks.

tao

10. Louise - September 29, 2007

Actually it would seem the only thing you guys have proved, is that you are getting old and frustrated. But then on, with age comes cynicism.

So perhaps the word ‘cynic’ is not the word you are really after?

And Petrea – “you can’t handle the truth” :-) Or is it “the truth is out there”?

11. amy - December 1, 2007

I was just looking for information on “cynicism” and wandered into this website. My two cents: we’re already in space; earth hits a new meter of it every half second, and we’re moronically tumbling along with the planet. NASA is a bloated, money sucking white elephant that should be disbanded, and the funding put to better use. There’s nothing out there that has led to any greater quality of living here on earth – The original point of going to space was basically a cold war “got-there-first”. And finally, even if there were something out there worth strapping a hydrogen bomb to your butt for, if we were to wait five years, someone would have it for sale on ebay anyway!
We’ve littered space with our crap enough – let’s stay home! It save’s money and energy.

12. Chiya - January 24, 2008

In response to what Amy said (“NASA is a bloated, money sucking white elephant that should be disbanded, and the funding put to better use.”)

Maybe, before trying that, the US should stop the war. At least the space program has some good come out of it. Even if it is just people being inspired and stuff. That and the things that were made for the space program and have other uses too.

13. Extreme Cynic - February 2, 2008

I’m so cynical that I disagree with the Space Cynics.

And my friends are so cynical that they disagree with me!

Ah well…

14. RAJAN VAIRAWANATHAN - May 9, 2008

I am very happy to see this differnce and may be truth, may be not truth. First, all skeptics, not this space group, tried to prove the Holy Bible wrong and misably failed. Now, it a difference of opinion between one thief and another regarding space. I CAN BOLDLY SAY, NONE OF YOU, IN YOUR WILDEST DREAMS CAN EVER EXPLAIN WHATS GOING ON IN SPACE, ESPECIALLY WHEN YOU CAN’T EXPLAIN WHATS GOING ON IN OUR OWN PLANET, THE EARTH.

15. Elohim - November 20, 2008

I think it is more a matter of you having fun crapping on people’s ideas under a false pretense of intellectualism. Space research hasn’t done anything for humanity? Are you KIDDING ME? Ok then, stop using cable TV (and by extension the internet since it uses the same technologies), any form of accurate weather forcasting, and all satellite telecommunications. Oh and not to mention the fact that space colonization is critical to the survival of the human race. Either that or mandatory birth control in china or simply killing off a large portion of the human race. The earth WILL NOT support 24 billion people, we’ll have to look elsewhere. So what, did you think this would be an easy or quick task? No, it will be the most monumental undertaking in human history.
If you have a problem with the space industry is today, then CHANGE IT. Don’t waste valuable internet bandwidth moaning about it. This blog is a waste.

16. shubber - November 21, 2008

Elohim,

As you obviously have a gift for reading incomprehension, i’ll let slide your inability to actually discern the point of this blog. Those of us who write here HAVE worked for change in space, invested in space companies, and worked with both the public and private space communities (big and little aerospace).

You are, i’m guessing, nothing more than another kool-aid sipping nut whose anger is generated by the cognitive dissonance rattling through what must be your brain as deep down you realize the stupidity of the many things you take for science that are truly science fiction, and that you’ve probably been suckered in by one or more movements that have no hope of becoming reality in your lifetime (e.g., mars colonies).

But hey, your post made me laugh, so congrats, you’re now a contributor to our blog in your small way.

17. oldspacecadet - November 25, 2008

Elohim — On what planet did you learn your mathematical skills?

You are probably right that the Earth cannot support 24 billion people, but how the hell can you “look elsewhere” to solve that problem? That kind of population implies several hundred million births annually. Are you planning to ship a significant fraction of that number annually to a colony in space? Where? Are you thinking like the Brits as they colonized Australia? Roughly 500 people have gone into space in the last 50 years. Do the math (terrestrial variety, that is….)

18. Taylor Shechet aka [tlrshcht] - June 8, 2009

Hello! First off, I want to say I am a young’in (23)… and relatively uneducated compared to the academia and industry folk who seem to be bouncing around this subject. I am a musician/artist/scifi/dreamer type person, but I try to be logical and well informed. I also apologize if I am posting this in the wrong area, the layout is somewhat confusing. I stumbled on this blog randomly, and was surprised to find it concerned a topic very dear to my heart.

I feel that it is essential that mankind make it into space, and that the window is closing. I also agree with the “cynics” that what has been going on is a load of BS. What I want to do, is try and get a clear picture of what is really going on, and then organize events to help educate people of my generation about the reality of space and what they can do about it. If someone could point me in the right directon, or provide me with a summary, I would greatly appreciate it. Feel free to email me if you feel that this would clutter the blog.

Thanks!

[tlr]

19. Pat Rawlings - February 3, 2010

After working with all the NASA Centers for 30 years, working with a variety of commercial space organizations and other pro-space organizations, I have seen my fair share of individuals that just parrot the pro space mantra ad infinitum. I have also seen people that don’t know they can’t succeed so they do succeed. Be careful to not invest so much time in being cynical that you lose the capability to reach beyond your present grasp and then somehow succeed.

I’m by nature very cynical. I fight it every day in order to achieve a healthy balance of knowledge vs vision. It’s amazing in todays world of blogging how many experts have suddenly come onto the scene. I’m just as guilty as any…

Pat

20. Manager - May 19, 2010

What is a Space Cynic? Before answering that, there must be a consensus of definition. It is a word with roots so ancient that gross variation exists within the English-speaking population of its meaning. It is not trivial to demand that we understand each others lexicon before we can have a substantial and objective debate. Louise, in comment above, has astutely observed that “cynicism” is considered an employee behavior requiring corrective training. Unfortunately, I found that the label of “cynic” is most often ignorantly applied to one who is seen as “not a team player”. In fact, most who are labeled “cynics” by their colleagues are actually the most intensely intelligent and honestly critical amongst them. Superficially, so-labeled “cynics” are seen as simple, chronically dissatisfied complainers since those reporting the behavior in others cannot distinguish between that and critical, eye-opening cynicism.
+1

21. islami dini - June 11, 2010

Hello! First off, I want to say I am a young’in (23)… and relatively uneducated compared to the academia and industry folk who seem to be bouncing around this subject. I am a musician/artist/scifi/dreamer type person, but I try to be logical and well informed. I also apologize if I am posting this in the wrong area, the layout is somewhat confusing. I stumbled on this blog randomly, and was surprised to find it concerned a topic very dear to my heart.

I feel that it is essential that mankind make it into space, and that the window is closing. I also agree with the “cynics” that what has been going on is a load of BS. What I want to do, is try and get a clear picture of what is really going on, and then organize events to help educate people of my generation about the reality of space and what they can do about it. If someone could point me in the right directon, or provide me with a summary, I would greatly appreciate it. Feel free to email me if you feel that this would clutter the blog.

Thanks!


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