Social Justice Warriors Make Their Claim on Space

People are starting to take the notion of large-scale habitation of space seriously, and some of the Social Justice Warriors, fresh from their recent bloodying with GamerGate and the Hugos, seem to be switching their sights to a new target. A few weeks ago, Elon Musk, Bill Nye and Neil DeGrasse Tyson had a conversation about (among other things) the importance of becoming a multi-planet species (one of Musk’s driving concerns, and the reason he started his company SpaceX).

Well, D. N. Lee, a biology blogger at Scientific American, found the discussion “beyond problematic” (one of the SJWs’ favorite words):

Ultimately, her concern culminated in this:

It resulted in a lively Twitter exchange into which both I and Homer Hickam (he of Rocket Boys and other fame) chimed in.

More recently, this past Monday, she wrote a more reasoned blog post, but the concern remains the same.

It’s not a new issue. Linda Billings, an occasional adviser to NASA (whom I’ve known for many years), has long expressed similar concerns about the frontier metaphor, and she responded to the kerfuffle herself shortly after.

But the shark may have been jumped yesterday over at The Guardian, when Martin Robbins told us that the first woman to be raped in space has probably already been born (Nick Gillespie over at Reason was less than impressed).

The problem with Lee’s argument is that she’s fighting against possibly the most pernicious space myth in existence, a myth far worse than moon landing conspiracy theories. It’s a myth almost universally believed, that sits at the core of liberal technocratic thought, and has been embedded in practically every other work of speculative fiction for the last half century.

You can sum it up like this: “When we go into space, we will all magically become nice.”

We see this in coverage of the space programme, with its endless propaganda about “cooperation” between nations, and promotion of the idea that clever people in tough situations produce the best humanity has to offer. It’s rampant in fiction, where shows like Star Trek assume that three centuries of civil rights progress will inevitably turn us all into morally-centered middle-class rationalists.

And it’s there, unspoken and unchallenged, at the heart of our current aspirations for space. There’s no room for discussion about social justice or equality when it comes to planning our future Mars colonies because we all just assume that decent educated scientists and engineers – the “right kind” of people – won’t have any problem with that sort of thing.

When it comes to the space myth-busting business, I stand second to none, but honestly, I’ve never really encountered this one. Robbins is right. The first woman to be raped off planet has probably already been born. As well as the first woman off-planet rapist.