Nobody wants to die. And not only that, people especially don’t want to die poor. But if you have to die, and God forbid, die penniless, it’s good to have lavished sufficient praise on a deity so you might be in his good favor in the afterlife.
According to the astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson, these fears account for “the most expensive, ambitious projects humans have ever undertaken.”
Take the Pyramids, which are “basically expensive tombstones,” Tyson says. The praise of deity or royalty also got us the great cathedrals of Europe. We’re not investing the same portion of our wealth and energy in churches nowadays, but Tyson says the other two fears are still quite powerful.
War, or the fear of death led to the construction of The Great Wall of China. It also led to the Manhattan Project and the Apollo Project. But would the threat of war get us to Mars today? It’s conceivable, but not likely. So if “kings and gods are not sufficient in modern times to undergo heavy projects,” Tyson asks, what’s left?
The promise of economic return. That’s what is responsible for hugely expensive enterprises such as the voyages of Columbus, Magellan voyages, and Lewis and Clark.
In the video below, Tyson wholeheartedly endorses this driver, as the impact would be as follows:
“You can go into space, transform society, change the zeitgeist of your culture, turn everyone into people who embrace and value science, technology, engineering and math, the STEM field.”
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