Instigator / Con
3
1610
rating
10
debates
85.0%
won
Topic

Space Exploration Ought to be a Top Priority in the Near-Term

Status
Finished

All stages have been completed. The voting points distribution and the result are presented below.

Voting points
3
0

With 3 votes and 3 points ahead, the winner is ...

Jeff_Goldblum
Parameters
More details
Publication date
Last update date
Category
Politics
Time for argument
One week
Voting system
Open voting
Voting period
Two weeks
Point system
Winner selection
Rating mode
Rated
Characters per argument
7,000
Contender / Pro
0
1470
rating
50
debates
40.0%
won
Description
~ 945 / 5,000

Resolution: Space exploration ought to be considered a top priority for humanity in the near term.

Definitions:

Space exploration - Human activity in space with scientific, exploratory, and/or resource-extraction motivations. I exclude planetary defense (i.e. asteroid defense) from this definition.

Top Priority - This is admittedly a vague term, and in a way I mean it to stand in for "Very Important." For specificity's sake, let's say a "Top Priority" means top 3 most pressing issues. If a prospective opponent wants to loosen this standard, they can haggle with me in the comments.

Near Term - Next 50 years. Hopefully our arguments don't require such a specific number, but there it is.

Round Structure:

R1 Con opening remarks
R1 Pro opening remarks (do not rebuttal Con's R1)

R2 Con rebuttal to Pro R1
R2 Pro rebuttal to Con R1 (do not rebuttal Con R2)

R3 Con rebuttal to Pro R2
R3 Pro rebuttal to Con R2 (do not rebuttal Con R3)

Round 1
Con
Thanks to User for accepting this debate. I look forward to a thoughtful back and forth on the place of space exploration in our near future.

My argument, in its most essential form, consists of three points:

1. Space Exploration as the Pure Pursuit of Knowledge - The primary benefit of space exploration is knowledge that has no clear and/or immediate tangible value.
2. Pressing Concerns - Humanity faces many threats that pose tangible danger to our well-being.
3. Prioritization - Addressing said threats to human well-being should be considered more important than the pure pursuit of knowledge.

Space Exploration as the Pure Pursuit of Knowledge
Here it will be useful to begin with a distinction between the pure pursuit of knowledge and the practical pursuit of knowledge. The former seeks knowledge for knowledge's sake. (example: how long has the "Great Red Spot" storm on Jupiter been raging?) The latter seeks knowledge because its acquisition will yield tangible benefits. (example: how can I modify this species of corn to increase global food production, thus reducing human starvation?)

(There is nothing wrong with the pure pursuit of knowledge, per se. In fact, I find it quite noble. But we must recognize realities and prioritize accordingly.)

In this section, I argue that space exploration primarily yields knowledge that has no tangible value. Of course, it would be impractical for me to summarize the totality of knowledge acquired by space exploration. Instead, I will use the findings of the famous Voyager probes as a case study.

Blasting off in the late 1970s, the Voyager probes are still on mission, having left the solar system recently. They continue to send transmissions back to Earth. The story of the Voyager probes is truly awe-inspiring. Unfortunately, the probes have yielded little practical information. Examples:
  • March 1979 - Voyager 1 flies by Jupiter. It discovers two new Jovian moons, confirms the Great Red Spot is a giant storm, and notes that Jupiter has lightning in its atmosphere. All interesting, surely, but these findings have no practical use. They are simply interesting.
  • August 1981 - Voyager 2 flies by Saturn, finding evidence of recent geologic activity on one of its moons. Interesting weather patterns are also detected at the Saturnian north pole. Again, cool stuff, but not really useful to anyone.
  • February 1990 - The Voyagers take a series of photos we know today as the "pale blue dot" image. Carl Sagan petitioned NASA to take the photo, in order to make a point about our place in the cosmos. Video here. The message is spectacular, but it cannot be said to have significant tangible value.
Before I conclude this section, I want to preemptively address what I imagine will be a key point from my opponent. Some have tried to argue that space exploration does have tangible value, that it is not just knowledge for its own sake. For example, one might argue that space exploration has potential to unite humanity, which obviously has tangible implications. One might even argue that the Pale Blue Dot message fulfills this criteria. My response to this train of thought is two-fold.

First, space exploration has yet to bring humanity together. Carl Sagan's Pale Blue dot did not convince us to lay down our arms and join together as one big, happy, human family. Some might say that space exploration will bring us together eventually. This leads me to my second, more important point.

Whenever people claim that space exploration has tangible value, they often rely on conjecture and predictions about the future. For example, one might argue that trying to find life on Mars is important because it will ram home our place in the cosmos and convince us to be kinder to one another. This has several problems. We don't know if the search for life will actually find life. Even if it does, we have no way of knowing what the discovery's impact will be on humanity. Or, for another example, take resource extraction. Some say we should explore our solar system's celestial bodies because one day we might be able to extract useful resources from them. Perhaps. But the possible benefits are so far off, and so clouded by uncertainties, that it is hard to argue that a massive investment should be made now. Simply put, the cost-benefit analysis of space exploration is hard to perform, because the claimed benefits are distant and impossible to precisely calculate.

Pressing Concerns
Humanity has to contend with several problems in the near future that are of overriding importance, especially in comparison to the pure pursuit of knowledge space exploration represents. My top three are:
  • Climate change - Human-induced climate change threatens human well-being in numerous ways. Sea level increases could put 800 million people at risk of dislocation, increasing frequency of severe weather events threatens hundreds of billions of dollars in property damage, and rising temperatures put hundreds of thousands of lives at risk due to heat stroke (in just the US). (source) The governments of the world face two key challenges related to climate change: mitigation and adaptation. By mitigation I mean the reduction or elimination of greenhouse gases, and by adaptation I mean preparing societies for the disruptive, harmful effects of climate change. Moving quickly on mitigation in the next several decades is essential, as the difference between, say, 1.5 C warming and 2 C warming is significant in terms of consequences (see previous source).
  • World hunger - Around 815 million humans suffer from chronic undernourishment, even though the world produces enough food to feed everyone. (source) Clearly, the suffering of nearly a billion of our fellow humans should take precedence over the pure pursuit of knowledge.
  • Refugee crisis - Roughly 70 million humans have been forced from their homes because of "persecution, conflict, violence, or human rights violations." This figure is an all-time high in human history. (source)
These are long-standing, serious problems for the human race. Our success or failure in addressing these issues will depend on the allocation of limited financial, political, and human capital. The aggregate well-being of our species is at significant risk in the near term.

Prioritization (Conclusion)
This debate asks us to consider whether space exploration ought to be classified as a "top priority" in the near-term.

I have responded by showing that space exploration's primary benefit is the acquisition of knowledge for its own sake and by demonstrating that the well-being of billions of humans is on the line in the next several decades. Considering these two basic facts, the only logical conclusion is to reject the notion that space exploration ought to be a top priority for humanity. To put it simply, other issues - issues that tangibly affect humanity - must be placed higher up on the agenda than pursuit of knowledge for its own sake.

Thank you for reading. Vote Con!
Pro
Your argument structure is extremely obscure and unfair to me, but whatever, I stand in the position supporting Elon Musk.

1. Humans are to progress instead of staying in the comfort zone.
I have seen certain persons on the site saying that space exploration has no tangible value, I will respond by that, so does chemistry, physics, etc.

There are things that are just hypotheses for decades or even centuries but came into use later in the timeline. Let me give you some examples. 
  • Newton's Gravity and Einstein's Relativity have saved the world by predicting the routes of countless near-earth Asteroids and colliding them with a man-made unmanned spacecraft to prevent them from hitting earth and damage innocents. Without them, we'd never figure out how to deflect an asteroid or to even calculate their paths. Newton's physics have little potential to save the world, and the science back then was unable to craft an asteroid-deflecting spacecraft, as the first asteroid-deflecting spacecraft was not developed until the recent decade. Link This proves that Gravity and the Theory of relativity are not used to save the world until it can, in which proper equipment in the astronomy labs are able to calculate the route for the larger asteroids and the route of the unmanned spacecraft to impact the asteroids that would make them leave the earth's vicinity.
  • These are also based on Mathematics. At first, Mathematics is just a way for animal herders to count how many sheep there are, and how to match them. Math back then has no way of saving the world. Then mathematicians came, and then physics is opened. Math upon its initial discovery has little to no tangible value as it is primitive in form and cannot compute complicated operations. Then Math and physics predicted how we will go to mars, how many gallons of fuel will be used per 60 miles, and how an asteroid will be deflected. 
For the second one, if to your logic in which humans have a top priority of being on earth, then you'd never even see physics, because those, like space exploration, has little to no tangible value in the primitive forms and are just theoretical. We can't go to mars yet doesn't mean we never will. Elon Musk is developing this, and sending people to Mars is a strategy for overpopulation. 

Since I obviously object your structure of debating, I will directly refute your first round since this is my opportunity and other debates have let me to. Your structure, as I stated, is unfair since you can immediately respond to my argument, but I instead have to respond to your opening argument at round 1. What sense does that make?

  • World hunger - Around 815 million humans suffer from chronic undernourishment, even though the world produces enough food to feed everyone. (source) Clearly, the suffering of nearly a billion of our fellow humans should take precedence over the pure pursuit of knowledge.
  • Refugee crisis - Roughly 70 million humans have been forced from their homes because of "persecution, conflict, violence, or human rights violations." This figure is an all-time high in human history. (source)
The pure pursuit of knowledge sure is useful. President Lincoln stated that if he were given 6 hours to chop down the woods, he'd spend the first 2 sharpening the ax. Sharpening the ax contributes nothing to the overall task, but it improves the efficiency of the overall task. To your logic, if you want to build the building as efficiently as possible, you DON'T plan it, you just stack bricks and cement on top of each other and expect them to build a large tower that never falls. Now, world conflict and poverty sure is important, but that's only the overall task. The "sharpening the ax" part is the pursuit of knowledge, such as finding a more efficient method of producing vital goods. 

Yeah, what does this have to do with space exploration? Yes. Space exploration as a pursuit of knowledge has another use: To make people proud of being human. They have seen humans improve. To humans, going to mars is much more of an achievement for humanity than to fix refugees and poor people. Again, to your logic, faith does not matter at all because God is not actually useful(and so that's my position). However, God of the Bible had lead Humanity for more than 1000 years. Does the Bible have any tangible value? No, I am not talking about the wedding rules, I am talking about, about Genesis and the history of giants. Are those useful? Yes, by implementing faith unto people. Space exploration had also given off faith in humanity. 

Space exploration may not have any tangible value now, but it gives faith, just like any unproven religion that still could contribute to humanity.

You are also under the assumption that humans cannot live in space. In fact, they certainly can. First is the ISS, then in the next 50 years, people are going to mars(not only walking on mars but living there). https://www.spacex.com/mars

Elon Musk is planning on sending people to LIVE on Mars in the next 50 years. Ain't that space exploration? We are conquering another planet! It definitely adds more to people's hearts than, let's say giving better conditions to refugees. 

For my last resort, 50 years is more than 20 years. At then when the earth starts to cool down, we could easily explore Mars. You could argue that there is no reason to consider Earth is good enough but isn't it good to expand territory? If you think exploration is not a top priority, then there will only be scattering Native Americans in New York, and people will still think the earth is flat.
Round 2
Con
Thanks to my opponent for a spirited reply.

My opponent has apparently conceded that knowledge is intrinsically less valuable than human well-being. At this stage, our only point of contention seems to be whether the knowledge gained by space exploration results in tangible benefits great enough to justify its classification as a top priority. I will continue to make my case that space exploration does not yield great enough tangible benefits to justify its classification as a top priority in the near term. To do this, I will respond to three key points from my opponent.

Violation of Debate Rules
Unfortunately, my opponent has knowingly and explicitly violated the ground rules of the debate. He has done so on the basis that the rules are not "fair" to him. I disagree, I think they are fair to both of us. Regardless, if my opponent did not like the rules, he should not have joined the debate. Simple as that. I politely request that voters accordingly penalize my opponent for conduct.

Physics, Math, and Eventual Value
With the examples of mathematics and physics, it seems my opponent was trying to argue that seemingly useless knowledge can one day be of immense benefit.
Newton's Gravity and Einstein's Relativity have saved the world by predicting the routes of countless near-earth Asteroids and colliding them with a man-made unmanned spacecraft to prevent them from hitting earth and damage innocents. Without them, we'd never figure out how to deflect an asteroid or to even calculate their paths. Newton's physics have little potential to save the world, and the science back then was unable to craft an asteroid-deflecting spacecraft, as the first asteroid-deflecting spacecraft was not developed until the recent decade.
There are several problems with this supporting point. For one, there is a factual inaccuracy within the claim itself. The source my opponent cites provides no evidence that we have "saved the world" by deflecting near-Earth asteroids. In fact, the source he cites clearly indicates that we do not yet have such a capability.

More importantly, even if we grant that 1) The early development of knowledge about math and physics had no immediate tangible value, and 2) said knowledge eventually led to substantial tangible benefits, my opponent has not made clear why the practically useless knowledge garnered from space exploration will similarly be of immense use one day. As I said in my opening round, the tangible value of knowledge gained from space exploration is often unclear and speculative.

Sharpening the Ax
To my understanding, my opponent is arguing that the pressing issues I have identified can be more easily addressed if we "sharpen the ax" through robust space exploration initiatives. I think he supports this claim with two points.

Now, world conflict and poverty sure is important, but that's only the overall task. The "sharpening the ax" part is the pursuit of knowledge, such as finding a more efficient method of producing vital goods. 
So, it seems like my opponent is arguing that human suffering can be more easily alleviated if we pursue knowledge through space exploration, thus helping us find "a more efficient method of producing vital goods." My rebuttal is simple: my opponent has yet to show how the knowledge acquired through space exploration can help us address these pressing issues. In what way does space exploration "sharpen the ax"? The fact that my opponent hasn't been able to identify anything specific supports my overall point that the value of space exploration knowledge is often uncertain and speculative, making cost benefit analyses difficult, if not impossible.

Space exploration as a pursuit of knowledge has another use: To make people proud of being human. They have seen humans improve. To humans, going to mars is much more of an achievement for humanity than to fix refugees and poor people.
Here my opponent argues that space exploration could have tangible value my making humanity proud of itself. This is a perfect example of the point I have been repeating: the benefits of space exploration are uncertain and speculative. Will space exploration inspire people? How much? If they are significantly inspired, what kind of change will that result in? How positive will that change be, and how much of it will there be? These questions cannot be answered definitively in advance. Thus, a cost-benefit analysis is impossible.

A Qualification (and Conclusion)
I have stated multiple times that the benefits of space exploration are speculative, uncertain, and not amenable to cost-benefit analyses. Why, voters may ask, do I keep harping on this point about cost-benefit analysis? Simply put, in a world with limited political, human, and financial resources, humanity has to set priorities. Logically, priorities should be set according to a comparison of the cost-benefit analyses. If you have $100, would you rather put most of it into reliable investments that you are confident will yield great returns, or speculative investments that may, eventually yield great returns? Of course, if we had unlimited resources, we would just invest in everything, because we have nothing to lose. But that's not the world we have to make our choices in.

To be clear, I am not arguing that space exploration has no potential value. I consider it probable that space exploration will eventually yield tangible benefits of some sort. But because those benefits are far-off, uncertain, and impossible to calculate, and because humanity currently faces major threats to our well-being, space exploration cannot justifiably be considered a top priority in the near term.

Space will always be there waiting for us. The overall well-being of our species should take priority. Thank you for reading. Vote Con!
Pro
You have generally convinced me. GG. Thank you.
Round 3
Con
Thank you for the debate.
Pro
I know you will probably win, so I will say congratulations.