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Of asteroids and Earth

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Hello.

Suppose that a huge, previously unknown asteroid, Trein, is discovered to be on a collision course with Earth in 30 days. Many panic, a mission is hastily drawn up to divert the asteroid, anti-man movements try to sabotage the mission. Then, shortly before launching it, so before any human intervention, another asteroid, Soter, is found to be approaching Earth. Further calculations prove that the gravitational attraction from Soter will nudge Trein away from its collision course with Earth. The dreaded catastrophe becomes a skygazing opportunity, as the asteroids.

Question: was Trein ever on a collision course with Earth or not?

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The problem with your question is that it is acontextual. If you ask a question about a hyptheical that has two very different contexts invovled (in this case: knowing only that Trein was on a collision course, and then knowing that there was an astroid that would divert it.) you cannot attempt to ask the same question about the whole hypothetical and expect to get a meaningful answer.

In other words: If you ask me, "was Trein ever on a collision course with earth, or not?" You are expecting me to know everything that there is, or ever was, to know about Trein. Which is impossible, I'm not omnipotent, I don't (read: can't) know reality as a whole and I don't know the state of being of all things at all points in time. I can only know about reality what I have observed.

Your question about the astroids, in a more general sense, plays to the idea of knowing 'reality' as opposed to knowing 'what you know' which in fact is a false separation of the nature of knowledge. All knowledge is contextual. As far as 'we' knew in your hypothetical, at first, Trein was on a collision course with earth and we acted accordingly because that was the nature of reality as we knew it. However, as soon as the other astroid was discovered and the scope of our knowledge about the nature of reality was expanded we then knew that Trein wasn't on a collision course.

It is incorrect to ask questions about reality, you can only ask one what he knows about it.

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Question: was Trein ever on a collision course with Earth or not?

No, it wasn't. The panic was a result of an error of knowledge. Precluding your next move: but eventually the truth was discovered, no?

Edited by lex_aver
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Hello.

Suppose that a huge, previously unknown asteroid, Trein, is discovered to be on a collision course with Earth in 30 days. Many panic, a mission is hastily drawn up to divert the asteroid, anti-man movements try to sabotage the mission. Then, shortly before launching it, so before any human intervention, another asteroid, Soter, is found to be approaching Earth. Further calculations prove that the gravitational attraction from Soter will nudge Trein away from its collision course with Earth. The dreaded catastrophe becomes a skygazing opportunity, as the asteroids.

Question: was Trein ever on a collision course with Earth or not?

First, what is meant by "anti-man movements"??

In the initial phase of the hypothetical situation, yes, Trein was "on a collision course with Earth...", the hysteria of the event ever more so heightened by playing on man's inherent paranoia of such an occurrence, in turn hastening his efforts to repel the asteroid, yet this catastrophe is avoided by the then unforeseen eventual intervention of the second asteroid, Soter, all of which contributing to delegating your hypothetical situation to the ranks of a paradoxal contraction/logical fallacy in that it collapses in upon itself, though the examination of the potential demise of man given in your scenario and his reaction thereto is sound as the time element wouldn't preclude the reactionary response given man's nature.

Edited by -archimedes-
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Suppose that a huge, previously unknown asteroid, Trein, is discovered to be on a collision course with Earth in 30 days.

...

Question: was Trein ever on a collision course with Earth or not?

Your opening assumption is a classical example of why Objectivism holds that arbitrary hypotheticals are of no intellectual value. What you did was stipulate a contradiction -- that scientists had enough information to state with certainty that the asteroid would unquestionably hit Earth, and yet they knew they did not.

A better way to present this kind of hypothetical is to present the relevant facts, e.g. mass, composition, speed, angle etc. of the asteroid, position of known and unknown bodies with their masses and trajectories, and plug that into MSAsteroid to find out whether it's possible for the asteroid to miss Earth. Add the unknown asteroid and see if it would have an effect on the outcome.

BTW, actually it was in fact always on a collision course. At the crucial moment, the planet Mongo explodes because Rankel messes with the red button, and the shock wave deflects Soter enough that it has insufficient influence over Trein's path. I think the problem lies in the imprecise notion "is on a collision course". What exactly does that mean?

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