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space (spās) n. 1. space beyond the atmosphere of the earth.

prag·ma·tism (prgm-tzm) n. A way of approaching situations or solving problems that emphasizes practical applications and consequences.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Being Cynical without Being Pissy

oldspacecadet at Space Cynic has responsed to my question of "Why?"

First off, let me just say I agree with a lot of what you guys say in principle. There is a lot of the "Dot-Com" boom anything with a cool name and graphics should be enough mentality in the new space arena.

Two problems, though. First, and I assume this is from years of disappointment, you guys come across as very sarcastic, demeaning, and generally mean. I don't know if it is intended, but I think it makes most space enthusiasts very defensive. Not great for winning an argument, IMHO.

Second, I disagree with your premise that

Instead, the interested person should reread the critical blog, then reread the Scientific American article carefully, and then do whatever research he or she needs to conduct within the primary literature in order for form a conclusion what would stand up to careful review.

I have to tell you, that is asking a lot from a country with permanent ADD. I theory that is what everyone should do. In practice very few people will. If you want to convince your audience, you have to bring facts to the table. You said here:

One small example -- the recent blog attacking the space radiation article in Scientific American. The blog's author made arguments that simply won't stand up to rational analysis nor will they get around the realities of the NRC's ALARA policy. Radiation may not be a showstopper for a manned mission to Mars, but it
presents very real, difficult problems that must be addressed with real analysis and real design tradeoffs rather than with glib dismissals. (That is this man's opinion after being trained in nuclear medicine, holding NRC designated user licenses for medical use of radionuclides, and working as a radiation safety officer in medical facilities as well as being formally trained in high level radiation bioeffects.) More Kool-Aid, anyone?

To break this down to a simple debate:
  1. His arguments are bad
  2. His premise is wrong
  3. I am a Nuclear Scientist so I know (take my word for it)
  4. Insult him (the Kool-Aid comment)
In my opinion, you aren't going to present the facts to back up your argument, point to someone who does, or leave it alone.

So, in general, good ideas, bad attitude.

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