The Indian Space Research Organization has been doing a number of cool things lately, the most recent achievement being the successful launch of India’s Chandrayaan-1. As a frequent reader of Slashdot, there are primarily three kinds of comments that I’ve come to expect each time a major announcement is made regarding India’s space program.
The first category contains jokes, often related to call-centers. These can be safely ignored. The second category includes comments congratulating human-kind for its achievement. While overly repetitive and probably unnecessary, such comments can be easily tolerated.
Finally, there is always a bunch of people whose argument goes like this:
Why is India wasting money on space research when there are millions afflicted by poverty?
This line of reasoning is flawed for a variety of reasons. Here’s why:
- The argument assumes that there is no (or very little) benefit accrued by spending money on the space program. Further, it assumes that money not spent on the space program would be used to fight poverty, whatever that means.
- Poverty is not caused by a shortage of resources. There are individuals who are very rich, and yet there are communities that are facing starvation. If the solution were as simple as taking wealth from the rich and giving it to the poor, all the socialist countries would be models of good governance.
- Wealth is not something that moves from one individual to another; it is created. As a silly metaphor, think of it as a flame that keeps you warm: you need to keep adding fuel if you want it to last.
- Teach a man to fish, and he will eat for a lifetime. Charity as a way of life is detrimental to the progress of society.
- We can’t wait to solve the problem of poverty before moving on to the Next Big Thing. That way lies madness.