The Giant Magellan Telescope - Is It Really Necessary? At a cost of $700 million?
Without defaulting to the standard attack - "You're a science denier," can someone quantify just how we have benefited from being able to see deeper into space than scientists could a couple hundred years ago?
The human mind need and wants to know as much as we can about existence. Seeing further allows us to gain a greater understanding of the universe and our place within it. Progress needs to continue, as there is always more to discover.
By better understanding the far reaches of the universe, we attain a better understanding of ourselves. Being able to see further allows us to study things we can not study up close. Many breakthroughs in physics, which have resulted in the inventions of new technology came from discoveries made possible by deep space exploration.
Second, if you truly believe that a telescope serves no better means than just seeing further, you are mistaken. While that is one perk, it also is frequently forgotten that a better telescope also allows us to see in better detail the universe that isn't so far away. It is a fact that there will come a time where humankind will have no choice but to migrate away from Earth, or go extinct. We unfortunately can not predict when this will happen. The right natural disaster could force us to do so within the next 100 years for all we know.
Finally, if we are ever able to prove that another sentient life-form exists out there somewhere, it will have a huge impact on humankind because we will finally know for certain that we are not alone. Imagine being raised in the wilderness by one person, never having met another person or even having any knowledge that other people like you even exist. When you eventually made the discovery of more people similar to you are out there - your mind would be blown. We as individuals may not feel the loneliness on such a grand scale - but the human race as a whole does have a "psyche" of it's own. We share our experiences on Earth in one way or another. That great loneliness being lifted could put us into a new age of enlightenment.
Besides, with 300 million people in our country, assuming 2/3 of them pay taxes - that's only a few bucks out of our pocket. We spend more than that to watch a silly movie at the theater - and that $700 mil is a one time cost, so it isn't like that will come out of our pockets month after month.
Quite frankly, I think it's a much better investment than to hand out 100 times that much to the banks that have screwed us over so bad we won't fully recover for several more years...just so they can buy bigger yachts.
Answering scientific questions is all about gaining more knowledge.
The arrogance that sometimes comes with it isn't good, but knowledge is something we can build on. Like @mattforte said, it will help us see closer items, too. Perhaps even planets like Earth (our grandchildren's vacation destination?).
I disagree with @michiganman567 about atheists trying to disprove God. I'm a Christian and love God, but science isn't only for atheists.
I like @mattforte's perspective on cost: ~$3.50/taxpayer. I like that much more than paying dozens of times that amount on greedy, unethical corporate contractors in the Iraq-Afghanistan shams. Our boys are dying over there so some corporate execs can look better on their own bottom line (o-i-l).
We could've had men on Mars by 1983 had it not been for the gargantuan expense of the Vietnam War (far greater than the entire Apollo program).
I see several people decided to interject their political opinions about war and bank bailouts, which is fine, but doesn't answer the question.
The question is - is it really necessary, or maybe should have phrased it: is it a waste of money?
To say it is better than spending money on wars or banks, doesn't justify spending on a telescope. In these times of financial strain, with our country perilously close to going down the same road as Greece, I think these questions need to be asked. I am all for science and technology, but we still need to be responsible with our resources (money).
I still have not seen a concrete example of how having more powerful telescopes has benefited our lives.
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