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From the Democrats.com Mailbag: Readers Weigh in on Bush Sale of the Moon and Southern Baptist Saber Rattling

Cheryl Seal

Our links often prompt interesting responses from readers - not all of them coming from left of center. Here are two very different topics that brought letters to the link author, in this case Cheryl Seal. The first exposed the fact that Bush recently handed first commercial rights to the moon to a company called Transorbital, an outfit that is part of a bigger, grander scheme for moon development. The comments were greeted with a spate of indignant letters from pals of Transorbital. Because the tactic of several of these was to accuse us of "conspiracy theorizing" and, at the very least, scientific ignorance, we felt a response was required, one that could be shared with all of our readers.

Here was the original link:

Like all the other international laws, Bush is now ignoring those pertaining to space. As America is distracted by 9/11 remembrances and warnings of new threats, His Heinous has turned the moon over to a private, for-profit corporation called TransOrbital that has a far-reaching, frigthening agenda for the corporate domination of space. All TransOrbital had to do was promise not to contaminate and pollute the moon - yeah, right. That's what the oil companies say about ANWR. There was no Congressional vote - not even any consultation. Bush simply acted as if the moon were his to give away. The TransOrbital venture could be disastrous for the globe - no scientist today could predict yet how adding mass to the moon via human infrastructure or removing mass, via mining, will impact the delicate gravitational interplay between Earth and its only satellite. The moon belongs to all the people of the Earth - not to George. W. Bush or his friends at TransOrbital.

here are associated links:

Reader Response:

Whether or not Bush or TransOrbital plans to own the moon is besides the point. If they do plan to own it, then we shall stand against it.

However, we should NOT just assume for no apparent reason that they are doing this. I, being a space enthusiast, have been following the efforts of TransOrbital and several other new space exploration companies, and see no reason to suspect anything.

Stooping to conspiracy theories is a very low thing to do. As leftists, it undermines our integrity. It undermines our claim to morality. Instead of "attacking" the company, perhaps you should find our more about it.

Worst of all, is your claim that we can destabilize the Moon's orbit. If this is the case, then space exploration would be impossible. But that is not the case. Both the Earth and the Moon are bombarded with hundreds of tons of space dust each day. On top of that, the solar wind exerts an extremely large amount of force on both the Moon and Earth. The moon is normally hit with very large objects, as its surface shows. It's delicate balance would've already been disturbed billions of years ago. What you stated is very scientifically inaccurate. As a society, we really undervalue science. Most people are very scientifically ignorant. We do not need more ignorance. One fourth of American adults do not know that the Earth revolves around the sun. That is a sad state of affairs. We do NOT need anymore ignorance and anti-intellectualism than we have today. Instead, we need to PROMOTE scientific knowledge and excellence.

I know that you have your own opinions. If you cannot shake your suspicions of TransOrbital, then I don't have THAT much of a problem with that. But please, for the sake of our future, do not post false scientific facts. If there is something you do not know, please consult an actual scientist. Don't help with the spread of ignorance.

Mad Scientist

Dear Mad,

Thankyou for your positive observations on the site (you like what you have seen so far). Re the rest of your note: we agree on one major point - there is nothing more disturbing in these complex times than scientific ignorance. And, the most disturbing type of scientific ignorance out there is that displayed by many scientists. I have written volumes this past year on the distortions foisted off on the American public by "researchers" who testify as "experts," offering up "facts" and "scientific prinicples" that, to the non-ignorant, non-bought scientist is appalling. These "experts," to arrive at the conclusions that they want, will extrapolate their results from facts in a most bizarre manner sometimes. For example, increased CO2 in greenhouses has shown to enhance the growth of some plants. Thus, according to our "experts," lots and lots of CO2 is good for EVERYTHING on the planet (I'm not making this up - this is actually in publications put out by these "scientists").

And, of course, historically, I should not need to remind you, if you are well-read in science history, what many scientists have gone through in decades and centuries past when they either argued for caution or argued for a departure from the "accepted scientific model." Remember Wegner? When he proposed the tectonic plate theory - which we all have now grown up with as an accepted fact - back just barely a century ago, he was ridiculed and maligned by OTHER SCIENTISTS to his grave. At the other end of the spectrum (scientists arguing for caution), we have scientists who say we should not mess around with ecosystems without knowing what we are doing. This advice was ignored (for example) by the introduction of game fish into countless ponds and lakes across the country where they did not belong, leading to the extermination of the native species there, and, in many cases, eutrophication due to the resulting disturbance.

As far as the moon-gravity issue. You invoke the same sort of simplistic logic that many global warming "experts" invoke! Because the moon has been bombarded by solar wind from its inception, this "proves" its orbit cannot be destabilized!? That's like the argument "We've always had warming trends on the planet, and therefore, human activity cannot possibly cause a catastrophic warming trend." HELL-OO!! That's like saying because a person has been eating tortillas all their lives without negative results that eating a bioengineered tortilla COULD NEVER EVER cause an allergic reaction.

Yes, indeed, the wind has been bombarded by solar wind, ebbing and flowing, for eons and eons. But, contrary to your implication, the solar wind is not "dust." It is a plasma composed of ionized particles - electrons, protons, and some heavier ions, moving at average velocities of 400 kilometers per second. Earth's ionosphere entrains these particles here "at home" and shunts them toward the poles. But the solar wind hits the moon unimpeded by an atmosphere. Some of the particles becoming embedded in the regolith, some of them ricochet off the surface, carrying moon dust particles off into space with them. In any case, all these interactions are part of THE NATURAL SYSTEM. The dance between moon and Earth and the other elements in space, just like the dance between ecosystems on Earth and natural change, is a dance that has been choreographed step by step over hundreds of millions of years. Through the interplay of natural conditions, these systems have evolved a form of equilibrium. The same thing can be seen with Earth itself. Even through glaciations and through impact events (such as represented by the Chicxulub crater), Earth has rebounded. How? Because all the basic building blocks (the remnants of the natural systems) and thousands of years between catastrophes were available to do so (eg, the recovering forests were not hacked down for pulp after 30 years).. Thanks to humans, the disturbances are now so great that the building blocks are damaged and scattered, extended periods of undisturbed recovery are all but nonexistent, and thus recovery will never be so complete as it was before the rise of our species.

As to the force of "regular bombardment" by large objects - this is not true. The moon and Earth have undergone periods of intense bombardment by good-sized meteors- the heaviest being between 4.5-3.0 billion years ago. Another wave of intense activity began around 500 million years ago around the time of the Cambrian explosion (where the diversity of life forms really took off). However, very large impacts on the moon or Earth have in the past several hundred million years been extremely rare. So the "regular bombardment" you refer to is micrometeorites.

In any case, it is as yet unknown how the residual effects of massive moon impacts in the past may have effected tides, volcanic activity, etc. on Earth. Today's meteors are small objects. That doesn't mean of course that we might not endure another massive one, with catastrophic results. But those events are beyond our control. Moon mining and construction are not.

In short, the moon's present equilibrium is based on long-standing forces of a specific nature. No, a few guys in spacesuits or a little moon rover is not going to disrupt the moon's equilibrium - my guess, anyway. Nor perhaps, would even a modest sized structure or two. But the Moon Project proposes mining, extensive development, the introduction of hundreds of humans. Does anyone want to bet the Global Ranch on the belief that this won't destabilize the moon in some way?. And, I am not talking a Velikovsky scenario here, with runaway chunks of Earth or moon flying off into parts unknown. I am talking about the subtle near-term effects and long-term chaotic effects. If you are conversant with the current scientific/mathematical fields of interest, then you should be familiar with chaos theory. The slightest - and we're talking SLIGHTEST variation introduced into a system can, over time, become magnified many times over. For example, some researchers believe that Mercury, in response to a slight chaotic element in its orbit, will ultimately leave the solar system (not in the next year or two, of course! We're talking eons).

There are two things I am invoking caution about: Short term effects of slightly altered gravity and long-term, potentially more disastrous chaotic effects. Geophysicists here on Earth have discovered in the past few years that variations in the tide (the onset of low tide, notably) can precipitate or enhance Earthquake activity in certain vulnerable zones (I just abstracted an article on that topic last week, as a matter of fact). Solar wind particles add mass to the moon, but they are part of an ongoing, evenly distributed process (i.e., it doesn't leave one big pile of dust deposted in some crater).. In addition, the solar wind not only giveth, it also taketh away - you imply that the moon is one big solar dumping ground. But in reality, the solar wind may scoursaway probably nearly as much mass as it deposits. So an overall equilibrium is maintained across the moon's surface. To add mass to the moon in the abrupt and nondistributed way that human development would add it could, especially to a system into which such variables have never been introduced, produce subtle effects felt on Earth. For example, it could intensify tides by a tiny, tiny fraction - but under certain conditions, that could be enough to trigger more intensive earthquake activity on earth. It would also trigger more substantial tides and contribute to devastating storm surges - not the best deal when water levels are rising steadily in coastal areas already.

Other studies have shown that shifts in barometric pressure alone - ie., changes in the weight of the atmosphere - can cause geophysical effects. The "bell vibration" of Earth picked up by seismologists has been attributed to this interplay. In any case, we are only barely scratching the surface when it comes to lunar effects on long- and short-term climate processes. Right now hardly seems the time to rush ahead with lunar "development."

In the long-term, even if there are no immediate obvious effects from a slightly altered gravitational interplay between Earth and moon, the chaotic effect could, ultimately produce catastrophic changes (greatly enhanced tides, disastrous climate effects, etc.). Are we so selfish and short-sighted that we don't care what happens to people several centuries or millennia from now - or have we just written the possibility of a human future on Earth completely off? Easier to desert the sinking ship and head for new worlds to exploit, eh?

The fact is, anyone who claims to know what the impact of human activity on the moon-Earth relationship will be has failed to learn anything from human history and its sorry record of stupid mistakes made based on stupider assumptions. A current example comes to mind - the assumption the nuke folks are making that transport of nuclear waste across thousands of miles of highway day in and day out will be safe - as will the geology of Yucca mountain for ever and ever.

FYI (you accuse us of being uninformed): I abstract 20-30 articles from scientific journals every week, including (to name a few) "Nature," "Science," "Physics Today," "Journal of Physical Oceaography" (plenty of sea-moon interplay research has appeared here in recent years), the Journal of the American Physics Association, "Geophysical Research Letters" (loaded with cutting edge stuff involving the bigger picture of the Earth and the solar system), plus about 100 others in the course of the year.

Now we go from the Lunar belt to the Bible Belt:

Interchange with a Peaceful Southern Baptist

Our link about how the Southern Baptist leaders are "endorsing" Bush's war hit a nerve with some peace-loving Southern Baptists. Here's the original link:

The rightwing fundies (which includes Southern Baptists, Pentecostals such as John Ashcroft, and other sects) believe that Armageddon is the prelude to the Rapture, at which point all "good Christians" will be sucked up into Heaven. We have covered the disturbing involvement of fundies in international policy lobbying in past stories and raised the question: Are these extremists trying to "force the Rapture" by forcing a war in the Middle East, where according to these folks' interpretations of scripture, the Big Battle is supposed to get underway? Now we find it very troubling that the only religious group in the U.S. so far to come out in FAVOR of the war are the rapturist Southern Baptists. Are we being shoved over the cliff by rightwing religious zealots? See http://tompaine.com/feature.cfm/ID/5489 and http://www.unknownnews.net/cdd-archive.html#040302

Reader Response:



Hi, Angela,

Please accept my apologies for appearing to lump all southern Baptists together. It was most certainly not my intent....afterall, I was raised one myself!!! (Missouri). My parents left the church in disgust after hearing one too many "hellfire and brimstone" rants.

As with the U.S. government, the people making policy for the church probably do not reflect the true majority.

All the best, and God Bless,

Cheryl, I must admit they do like to preach fire and brimestone.... but my upbringing was also taught the Love of God. again Thank You for reading my email



I was very lucky in that the very first preacher I had was a warm and wonderful, loving man. Unfortunately, we moved to a different town later, so we lost him. He could get really worked up some Sundays, and really get your attention (I don't think anyone dared to fall asleep in that congregation - even my Dad!), but it was never about hellfire and damnation. Instead, he made you feel that you could walk right up and shake hands with Jesus right there in the church! His name was Thurston Healer, so his preacher name was, wonderfully, "Brother Healer."

Brother Healer left me with a lifelong feeling that God is VERY REAL and always there. I have never lost that. So, I guess you can say that as angry as the Baptists can make me now, I still owe them quite a debt - they gave me Brother Healer, and Brother Healer gave me faith!

God Bless,