Competing Visions (2)

November 28, 2016 at 4:02 am by Frank White

Most of us would agree that exploration is a positive human activity. We are a curious species, and our tendency to go "out there" to learn more about the unknown is almost taken for granted. Of course, we do that, right? There is even speculation that we carry an "explorer gene" that can be activated in the right circumstances.

Exploitation is a bit more problematic, though. It is also a human tendency to exploit the resources that we find surrounding us, or that we discover through exploration.

There are times when this exploitation seems benign enough, and times when it is downright destructive.

When we look back at the great ages of exploration on Earth, especially the 15th through 18th centuries, the picture is truly mixed, from an ethical point of view. Finding "new worlds" exerted great impact on the European countries from which the sailing ships departed, and surely played a positive role in supporting the Enlightenment, which broke old modes of thought and led to new concepts of humanity and our role in the world.

However, the colonial worldview of the explorers represented nothing short of disaster for the Indigenous peoples they encountered in their journeys. As we look back at the great age of European exploration of the planet and the settling of the American West, we would certainly like to have a "do-over" based on a different philosophy of exploration and exploitation.

(To be continued)

(c) Copyright, Frank White, 2016, All Rights Reserved

The Overview Effect: Space Exploration and Human Evolution is available at and