The First Men in the Moon

I noticed an article in Slate (Practice Does Not Make Perfect), which made the perfectly sound point that people vary in their abilities, genes have a lot to do with it, and Malcolm Gladwell can’t help being a pinhead.  He was probably born that way.

Of course, the authors cover their hairy asses by saying we don’t know that between-group differences in IQ or whatever are caused by genes. We just happen to live in a world that looks exactly the same as one in which that happened to be the case.  Technically, I think that this is called a modified limited hangout.

But what about the future?  One generally assumes that space colonists, assuming that there ever are any, will be picked individuals, somewhat like existing astronauts – the best out of hordes of applicants. They’ll be smarter than average, healthier than average, saner than average – and not by just a little.

Since all these traits are significantly heritable, some highly so, we have to expect that their descendants will be different – different above the neck.  They’d likely be, on average, smarter than any existing ethnic group. If a Lunar colony really took off, early colonists might account for a disproportionate fraction of the population (just as Puritans do in the US), and the Loonies might continue to have inordinate amounts of the right stuff indefinitely. They’d notice: we’d notice.  We’d worry about the Lunar Peril. They’d sneer at deluded groundlings, and talk about the menace from Earth.

Fantastic, winning-Powerball-with-a-ticket-you-found-in-an-Arab-privy luck has ensured that all existing human populations have the same average IQ (and the same standard deviation!) but there’s no guarantee that our luck will hold as we settle the Moon, and Mars, and the stars beyond.  We will have to make it so: enforce the principle of mediocrity.

We will need to make sure that every such colony has its fair share of morons.

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133 Responses to The First Men in the Moon

  1. Different above the neck! Yes, the current popular narrative is that evolution allows variance below the neck, but has kept everything above the neck constant, because the Deity has the ultimate purpose of running evolution so that it conforms to contemporary polite sensibilities.

    • Jim says:

      If one has a naturalistic outlook and even a very superficial knowlege of biochemistry than it is perfectly obvious that nucleotides must play an important role in human behavior. After all what biological phenomena don’t they play an important role in? Also given the most rudimenrary knowledge of biology and evolution it is clear that there is essentially zero probability of complete behavioral equality between different human racial/ethnic groups. The fact that some groups such as Ashkenazi Jews have a genotype producing a significantly higher average level of intelligence is not at all surprising from a
      naturalistic viewpoint.

      But most people have an animistic viewpoint not a naturalistic viewpoint. They conceive of reality as governed by moral agents (gods of some sort) so they instinctively believe that reality must comform to their moral intuitions. Its hard for many people to accept that the universe is totaaly amoral.

  2. j says:

    Sir, the heroic phase of space exploration ended thirty years ago. No more Neil Armstrongs needed. Even NASA’s Shuttle Program evolved towards the end crews that were a fair representation of the population. I guess the colonies will mirror Earth’s population at the time.

    • gcochran9 says:

      “a fair representation of the population”

      PIlot astronauts need at least 1000 hours of jet time, a bachelor’s degree in engineering or science, with advanced degrees preferred. Also 20-20 vision etc.

      Mission specialists: usually advanced degrees. in engineering, physical science, or mathematics.

      Masters on up, mostly. Not close to a representative sample of the population.

      Anyhow, there will be this terrible temptation to send competent people, because artificial habitats are probably not going to be as idiot-proof as Mother Earth. .

      • Maciano says:

        “Anyhow, there will be this terrible temptation to send competent people, because artificial habitats are probably not going to be as idiot-proof as Mother Earth.”

        It’s my birthday, I laughed. Thnx.

      • Steve Sailer says:

        Back in the 1930s, the Pioneer Fund subsidized married military pilots to have an additional child.

      • Mark P. says:

        G. Cochran wrote: ‘Masters on up, mostly. Not close to a representative sample of the population. … there will be this terrible temptation to send competent people.’

        True, but you haven’t gone far enough in thinking this through. Competence and intelligence alone will be inadequate. Other vital traits, also with large hereditary components, are going to be selected for in those human specimens who’ll be candidates for deep space missions.

        To start with, any manned deep space mission — as with a voyage to Mars and back — will require the astronauts/taikonauts to leave the protection against cosmic/solar radiation that the Earth’s magnetosphere affords. Consequently, besides high IQs, the other necessary traits in human candidates for deep space missions are:
        * high radiation insensitivity,
        *high cancer resistance,
        *and high bone density.

        Let’s cut to the chase. What populations are likeliest to produce human outliers meeting those requirements?

        So that we’re clear, the central problem of space medicine — the reason for 50-60 percent losses in cardiovascular efficiency and bone density in the longest stays recorded by humans in space — is appallingly simple. It’s that gravity acts as a signal for your body’s systems.

        On Earth, if you’re weight-lifting or running marathons, for instance, or you just gain forty pounds, your skeleton and muscles strengthen accordingly. Conversely, since hundreds of thousands of years of evolution have developed your body to allocate its resources efficiently, if you then stop lifting weights or running, or you lose those extra pounds, your muscles and bones will adjust by downsizing.

        In space, it’s that simple but much more extreme. In fact, when you’re weightless, your weightlessness ramifies in all kinds of ways. Your organs float within your torso and tend to migrate upwards inside your ribcage. More body fluid rises to your head, plumping out facial wrinkles. Then, too, because the human body’s blood sensors are almost all in the upper body, your system thinks you’re retaining too much fluid and dumps ten to fifteen percent of your water weight over time.

        Long story short: at least one NASA scientist I know of has quietly pointed out that, for instance, the bones of black women are seven to twenty-four percent denser, on average, than those of white or Asian women and that, in general, NASA might consider using and training disproportionate numbers of African-American astronauts.

      • j says:

        Go back and read again. NASA Shuttle criterions for selecting crews had been evolving and the trend was to include non-technical “passengers” like Christa McAuliffe, a high school teacher. She received her bachelor’s degree in education and history from Framingham State College, and a Master of Arts in education supervision and administration from Bowie State University. What I said was that, when the time comes to select permanent settlers in a moon colony, a diverse population may be considered. Anyway, the issue cannot be decided today. There had been no moon missions for a number of years and permanent colonization may not start in a hundred years, if ever.

      • thinkingabout it says:

        Sounds farfetched to me. If they really wanted the smartest, fittest and most competent people on space missions, there wouldn’t be such a preponderance of women. And military types. Women aren’t as physically capable as men. And military types tend to be stupid. I’m sure there are plenty of physically fit, mountain climbing engineering grad students who would make better astronauts, but NASA seems to be interested in selecting at random.

  3. Heinlein couldn’t have known this when he wrote Moon is a Harsh Mistress, but we arguably have a better sense now of where embryo screening is going, and how quickly. By the time any sizeable number of humans are up there (1+ generation into the future), I suspect that PGD will dominate population stratification for “right stuff” traits, as compared to such regionally assortative mating.

    Of course, ET humans are likely to be very pro-PGD. But, I think they will be one group out of many, and perhaps not superior to similar (above average) groups on old Terra.

    • Mark P. says:

      ‘ET humans are likely to be very pro-PGD’

      Homo extraterrestrialis cannot come into existence without PGD. There will be no 1+ generation without it. See forex —

      NASA Ames Research Center: Rodent Mark III Habitat Workshop Final Report
      March 21-22, 2013

      ‘Multigenerational Success is a Repeating Cycle of Necessary Milestones’

      ‘The major goal of the Rodent Mark III Habitat Workshop … was to identify top-level science requirements suitable for defining the envelope for the Rodent Mark III Habitat, an animal habitat that will support the reproduction and development of rodents … on the International Space Station (ISS) … Precedence is given to studies of rats and mice examining the transmission across generations of structural and functional changes induced by exposure to the space environment. This directive encompasses the key reproductive and developmental phases comprising the mammalian life cycle for maximizing successful outcomes for: (1) mating, (2) conception, (3) pregnancy, (4) embryonic/fetal development, (5) birth, (6) lactation (7) maternal care, and (7) offspring development through sexual maturity.

  4. MawBTS says:

    At least the Terrans would have muscle mass and bone density on their side – we’d wreck a Lunar football team.

    I’ve heard that people in low-gravity environments experience swelling and puffiness around the face, since the human circulatory system evolved with Earth’s gravity in mind. That would be poetic. The moon-dwellers would literally be moon-faced.

  5. clathrus says:

    Elon Musk, a man perhaps more likely than any other to achieve the goal of making mankind a multi-planet species (Mars), has five children with his first wife. He is now married to his second wife, Talulah Riley, who is quoted as saying:
    “It’s funny, but when I was a young romantic I wanted to have 10 kids. Along with issues like global warming, I think a problem with the world today is population decline. We’re going to try to have five girls to balance it out.”
    Of course, global population isn’t declining, so what could this possibly mean?

    • MawBTS says:

      Top kek. I wonder if she would have answered in the affirmative if the issue had been put more plainly (“do you think high IQ people should outbreed low IQ people?”)

      I think many people actually believe in HBD, they just don’t like feeling like Nazis. So long as they don’t have to overtly think about race and breeds and IQ points, they go along with it. Their actions are different to their words.

      Tim Wise says he doesn’t believe in race. That didn’t stop him from moving to a neighborhood that’s 97% white.

    • Mark P. says:

      By ‘population decline,’ Tallulah Riley presumably means in those developed nations where the replacement birth rate isn’t being met so there’ll be a majority-aged society by 2025-2040.

      Primary examples would be Japan, Italy and — interesting times — China just around the time when it’s supposed to replace the US as global hegemon.

  6. JayMan says:

    You beat me to it. I had a post on this, on the development of a Mars colony sitting on the back burner for a while now.

    Basically, the founding of the American colonies, and the subsequent “nations” in North America (especially in the West) demonstrates the power of sorting and founder effects.

    See also:

    More Maps of the American Nations | JayMan’s Blog

    A Mars colony would likely be the Left Coast on steroids. The people would likely be intelligent, introverted, and high on novelty seeking, high on Openness to
    experience, weak on family ties (likely decidedly non-clannish). Their descendants would very unlike any Earth-bound population.

    • reiner Tor says:

      Then there’s not much of a problem. They will be easily convinced that importing spaceshiploads of third world immigrants would be the only ethical thing to do.

      • JayMan says:

        Elon Musk stated that he wants to be able to send 50,000 people /yr to Mars eventually. Of course, the fact that you’re going to Mars and the presumably still pricey cost would still serve to screen people who went.

        • Jabberwocky says:

          I’m impressed at how frequently Elon Musk is mentioned by intelligent folk as representing a shining star, guiding us to our future. Perhaps so, but he strikes me as someone who has gotten very rich peddling ideas that are very unlikely to work out for anyone but himself. Razib Khan mentioned him, as well. A great salesman, for sure!

          • clathrus says:

            All the information I’ve seen to date (including a visit to Hawthorne in 2012) suggests to me that he’s really on the level on this subject. These are exciting times.
            ‘Mars One’ on the other hand… poorly informed, ridiculously under-resourced, justifiably ridiculed in the space advocate community.

      • Maciano says:

        They won’t survive high-tech harsh environments. A mistake on earth means an injured knee or cut; a mistake on the moon means certain death.

    • R. says:

      Basically, the founding of the American colonies, and the subsequent “nations” in North America (especially in the West) demonstrates the power of sorting and founder effects.

      Does it?

      I’m not aware of Americans being any smarter than say, Germans. Or Finns. Or Czechs. Or Italians.

      They do seem to suffer from a delusion that all problems are solvable if you throw enough resources at them. Russians are similar, perhaps it’s part of the ‘huge nation’ syndrome.

      • JayMan says:


        You know, there’s more to life than IQ.

      • If you sort for race, caucasian Americans are indeed smarter than Czechs or Italians, somewhat ahead of Germans, and about even with Finns. Other groups around the world, variable.

        And yeah, we’re just like Russians in everything. People say that all the time. It’s certainly my impression when I meet groups of Russians that “hey, they are just like Americans.”

        As for founder effects, I recommend David Hackett Fischer’s “Albion’s Seed.” He doesn’t mention genetics, but gives evidence for considerable persistence in regional differences in America based on original settlement from different regions of Britain.

        • Dale says:

          You write, “Americans are indeed smarter”.

          Do you have a reference for that? (I’m actually surprised that such a result could even get published.)

          You write, “I recommend David Hackett Fischer’s “Albion’s Seed.””

          Indeed! It’s remarkable the number of aspects of culture in the US that show serious founder effects. In particular, political styles (the expectations of how individuals relate to the State) differ dramatically between regions, and provide a neat summary of all of the “culture wars” in current US politics.

        • Jon says:

          If we had Russians for criminals here in the US in sufficient numbers, we’d actually be using the smart-chip on credit cards like they do in Europe. Fortunately, our criminals are much dumber and our credit card companies have been better at figuring out how to benefit from the low levels of fraud thus far.

      • Dale says:

        You write, “They do seem to suffer from a delusion that all problems are solvable if you throw enough resources at them.”

        If that’s your strong point, it’s the likeliest strategy unless you have solid evidence to the contrary.

    • Sisyphean says:

      On the other hand, I bet we get a lot of really great digital paintings, books, and movies back from lunaria. The one possible benefit of being a weirdo raised among weirdos is that you could lose the victim complex and just be, rather than spending the majority of your life producing work that mocks the regular people who made fun of you in school. (See: the plot of every other TV/Movie script)

      • Dale says:

        You write, “the plot of every other TV/Movie script”.

        And yet such scripts sell well, and the ultimate consumers are necessarily quite average.

        • Sisyphean says:

          Average folks often recoil from the weird when they meet them in person, when they are confronted with the totality of what it means to be truly different and not care what other people think about what you say or do or how you dress. Yet they like to imagine they too are different, special, interesting, a cut above in some way. They have no way to understand all the negatives that so often accompany those words because they have never lived them. So of course they consume.

      • MawBTS says:

        If Lunarians developed their own art, I think it would be nostalgic and imitative of Earth – endless paintings of jewel tone oceans and grass fields, music drenched in reverb (to imitate a concert hall full of real, breathable air). Rich assholes would import expensive luxuries from Earth – the height of decadence would be owning a real piece of wooden rococo furniture.

        Or maybe they wouldn’t care much for art. Hard to see why people with aesthetic sensibilities would go to the moon.

        • Sisyphean says:

          I don’t imagine the western expansion of the U.S. heavily favored creatives either however it has over time come to be very densely populated with them. It may be that entrepreneurial spirit, risk taking, openness to experience and creativity are linked in some way.

          • JayMan says:

            Certain parts of the U.S. (the West, the Northeast) rate higher on Openness to experience than other parts. In the West, this is entirely due to sorting.

            See here for maps.

            • Sisyphean says:

              I find it odd. Why would I want to live surrounded by people like me? Seems like a sure recipe for insular thinking.

    • Dale says:

      Founder effects can get complicated. Consider the American black population. They were recruited from one of the burliest populations in the world (West Africa) and put to heavy field work. The American system of segregation ensured that from 1800 to 1950 they were almost always employed in fields where physical strength was valuable and IQ not particularly important. Around 1950, employment segregation broken down fairly quickly and overall employment shifted to rewarding IQ greatly and physical strength very little. Since 1980 or so, American blacks have been in the toils of the New Economy just like all other Americans. It may be one of the sharpest shifts in selective pressure on a population in modern times. And it’s possible that there is some sort of visible genetic signature of this shift in selective pressure.

      In that regard, see the Economist’s review of marriage among American blacks, The marriage rate among blacks is much lower than it is among other races, despite the high value their culture places on marriage. Black women seem to have a high rate of de-facto polygyny; it’s hard to measure, but it’s the only population I’ve heard of that uses the term “man sharing”. There are suggested environmental causes, of course. But perhaps the problem is that the variance of economic success among American black men is unusually high because of the sudden change in selective pressures — the American black population was one of the few American populations that wasn’t deeply embedded in mercantile/bureaucratic cultures until very recently, and so few of its members have a high IQ. But given the strong selective pressure, those few are very reproductively successful. If that is true, it should have a significant effect on the average IQ over a few generations.

      • j says:

        “Selective Pressure” works by the fittest having more children. Did intelligent Africans have less children under slavery and more now? If true, how many generations will it take to increase average IQ in one point?

  7. Dale says:

    Certainly an interesting question. But once space transport isn’t a government research project, who will go over? The Puritans were a fairly well educated bunch, but the other European source populations for the Americas weren’t so much. The Spanish conquistadors were ambitious people out for dominion, and I would guess that they had a great deal of genetic success. Virginia got a lot of younger sons of aristocrats. The backwoods were people by whoever the investors could get to sign on to cut wood and send it back to Europe. (The book Albion’s Seed goes into this.) The African source population surely was affected by the tendency of West African rulers to export anyone they considered undesirable. (I suppose Euro-Australians are the result of similar selection.)

    The long-term consequences are also unclear. Living in Boston, it’s sort of funny to see the gradual erosion of the political power of New England in general and the Boston elites in particular, along with their Puritan-descended notion that the nation would be best governed by a highly educated elite (e.g., themselves). The economic powerhouse of the US is becoming Texas, but that seems to be driven less by a monopoly on intelligence than a deliberate unfettering of the drive for economic gain.

    • JayMan says:

      Well, Boston of today is hardly the Boston of The Scarlet Letter. That said, Massachusetts today does best most states in the IQ department.

      • @ JayMan – Boston was never the Boston of Hawthorne’s fantasy. You knew that and were making your comment for effect, I know. But I wanted to put that in anyway.

        @ Dale – As for Texas, most of the new jobs have been to immigrants. See Steve Sailer for that.

  8. Maciano says:

    “The moon is a harsh mistress”


    “The moon is a demanding mother”

  9. WatchinIt says:

    No problem getting morons – remember the “alleged diaper-wearing” stalker astronaut who was arrested in 2007? She was a naval flight officer, flew on STS-121, and was a robotics specialist. Perhaps she was infected with a brain slug while in orbit.

  10. I don’t think you have been reading the right Science Fiction. Your scenario seems dated. When I look into the future, I see a very different picture.

    The main point about morons is that we have always wanted and needed morons. Currently there is a big labor action in LA by the morons. They want (I think) $10.35/hour for cleaning hotel rooms. There are similar movements among the morons who work at fast food restaurants.

    The whole illegal alien controversy is over maintaining a robust supply of low IQ workers to clean our toilets. This was the analysis of LA Mayor Villarosa. This is Monday. Tuesday I will have two women come to my house to clean my toilet and mop my floors. Neither speaks very good English and they are morons.

    But all this will soon change. The robots are coming. We are only about a decade or so from competent domestic robots. Sex robots may arrive even faster. The point is that for the first time in human history middle and upper class people will no longer need a large and cheap supply of human morons.

    In the early nineteenth century people concerned with the future and advancing technology predicted that the Industrial Revolution would soon make human slavery obsolete – and they were right. But it didn’t happen quite fast enough for us to avoid the American Civil War. Timing is critical. We are on the cusp of big changes in the utility of human morons. We are encouraging morons everywhere with welfare state programs and immigration policies right at the time when we they are about to be obsolete.

    Outer space is a side show. The main event will be held in our bathrooms.

    • clathrus says:

      Robots, always robots. Why don’t we try to breed and/or genetically edit chimps to do menial work? Stronger than any human, more adaptable than any robot, no human rights to deal with. We could have a chimp that is to wild chimps what the domestic dog is to the wolf.

    • Steve Sailer says:

      Heinlein’s 1957 “The Door into Summer” is about the inventor behind a cleaning lady robot — the “Handy Girl” or something like that. He talks about how in the past American women would abuse their immigrant servant girls mercilessly, but, there weren’t anymore immigrant servant girls anymore, so somebody had to invent a household robot.

  11. cloudswrest says:

    I touched on this issue a couple of months ago here . It will be much cheaper to import germ line material rather than whole people. Much lighter. In addition to intelligence, “regrettably, … the women will have to be selected for their sexual characteristics which will have to be of a highly stimulating nature”

    • Mark P. says:

      “…the women will have to be selected for their sexual characteristics which will have to be of a highly stimulating nature”

      Strangelove, is that you?

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  13. Toad says:

    First woman in space

    First African-American In Space

    First Black Woman in Space

    First Hispanic Female Astronaut

    First Lesbian in Space

    The First Muslim in Space

    the first Muslim woman in space

    First Asian American in Space

    Space Station Welcomes Its First Russian Woman First Woman to Command the International Space Station

    Just replace ‘in Space’ with ‘on the Moon’. You can look forward to news articles like:
    ‘First Transgender Japanese Black Woman to Drive Lunar Transport Buggy’
    ‘First Hispanic Lesbian to Operate Lunar Mining Rig’

    • clathrus says:

      This doesn’t bother me at all. If they pass the rigorous selection criteria, more power to them. Will be nice to have more diversity in the founder populations on the Moon & Mars, and I mean that entirely unironically.

      • Hoopty Freud says:

        Yes, it’s hard to get along without lesbians and transsexuals.

      • Ilya says:

        @clathrus: I’ve posted the link before, but will re-post:
        He mainly talks about interstellar colonization, but discusses genetic diversity as well. His ultimate conclusion, I think: it’s not needed.
        Personally, I’d side with fixing the earth’s dysgenic path before throwing more money at the altar of science and technology.
        It takes a few bright scientists-turn-fanatics turning their project into a cult that is part of an already established, high fertility religion that doesn’t abhor technology and wealth.

        • reiner Tor says:

          His argument about genetic interests is wrong.

          Yes, the other colony would not be my personal clones or particularly close relatives, but they would be infinitely closer than any alien. I would prefer any disliked human group (be it Jews, blacks, Chinese, whoever one doesn’t like) to be the sole human survivors of a catastrophe over there being no survivors at all. I would prefer genetically modified intelligent chimpanzees to survive over no primate survivors at all. I would prefer stupid chimpanzees to survive over no survivors at all. I would prefer roundworms surviving over the extinction of all biological life on Earth.

          And I would feel better in a hostile universe knowing that even if we screw up really majestically down here on this planet, there would still be some surviving relatives over at Tau Ceti.

  14. dave chamberlin says:

    Meanwhile back at the ranch, we can’t leave our earthly cocoon, dagnabbit.

    All we need is a few countries that are a swell place to live with an in door for the rich and well educated and an outdoor for the criminals. What’s wrong with banishment? Whatever happened to banishment? Prisons are damned expensive to operate and nobody wants to be in them, we need to demote people to shittier countries when they commit non violent crimes. When you are a violent criminal well then you get shipped off to asshole island where everyone wears a shock collar and a camera hat so if they attack someone else ZAP, off to a cage for a while.
    Sure it won’t be an ideal set up. There will be all these dumb mopes hanging around in their minimum wage jobs but since they don’t break the law they get to stay. Kinda like here.

    • Josh says:

      I’m going to make it a point to spit in your burger when you come in next.

    • Dale says:

      You ask, “Whatever happened to banishment?”

      That actually is an interesting question in the history of human culture. It resembles “What happened to polygyny?” and “What happened to slavery?” in that it seems to have been deleted from the stock of memes of pretty much all the major cultures/countries/civilizations without there being an obvious common cause or motivation. There’s probably a good book in researching the answer.

    • Anonymous says:

      Once we put the criminals on an island what is the purpose of the collar? To protect them from each other? If yes: it won’t prevent fast murders. However, yes, it will reduce attacks. But the camera hat will necessitate a huge wireless infrastructure and people who watch the video feeds.

      What would help: sensors embedded in convict brains to register pain. Also, proximity detectors for when enemies are near each other.

  15. Cplusk says:

    100.000 Loonies with avg iq of 140 would have 50 people with iq of 190+. That’s 1 in a billion for avg iq of 100. It would be nice for science.

  16. Bryan says:

    A Mars colony would likely be the Left Coast on steroids.

    The Left Coast is a hyper-civilized environment and Left Coasters tend to be people attracted to hyper-civilized environments and lifestyles. These are not exactly rugged frontier types.

    The prototypical Left Coasters wouldn’t show up until the space colonies were technologically tamed and turned into hyper-civilized environments they’d be comfortable in. And at that point, their own environments back on Earth would have been destroyed by their policies. Of course they’d end up promoting the same ruinous policies in the space colonies.

  17. Bryan says:

    Greg, what’s your opinion on Gerard O’Neill’s proposal for space colonies vs the more standard planetary, terrestrial colonizations of the moon, Mars, etc.?

    Do you think one is better or more feasible than the other?

    • cloudswrest says:

      A planetary, terrestrial colony is more easily defended. You can’t “dig in” on a space station. One glancing blow to a space station by a kinetic energy projectile and it’s bye bye Elysium. Way too fragile for a colony, although it might make good vacation home space.

      • Bryan says:

        I wasn’t really asking about which would be better for fighting space wars. You’re kind of jumping the gun here. We don’t even have fully reusable rockets yet. Presumably, by the time space wars are commonplace, both forms of colonization would be fairly feasible.

        At any rate, it’s not clear that a civilization concentrated on a planetary surface would be safer than one distributed across a network of space colonies.

        What I’m really wondering about is which would be better in terms of speed and feasibility.

        • reiner Tor says:

          I would think that gravity (too little, or too large) would be a huge negative for any planets in the neighborhood. I would definitely opt for the artificial gravity of a huge rotating space station, at least if it could be set at a more or less permanent 1g, even if it has issues of its own. Obviously it won’t be constantly 1g, at least when spaceships are docking etc. the spin might need to be stopped. (Or maybe the spaceship could dock to a rotating station. Should be possible.)

          Having said that, there might be some ways to overcome the too low gravity of Mars or Venus. One could wear iron or lead suits that weigh one down. Medieval knights wore iron for much of the day in Earth’s gravity, so this must be possible. One could do weight training in lower gravities, I’m tempted to get already excited by all those PRs I could set at the Mars station, deadlift, press, anything. Oh, even ultra-distance running might be easier there.

          I personally think we’re very far away from both colonizing planets and building truly habitable space stations.

          • gcochran9 says:

            We know the bad effects of long periods of zero-g, but we don’t really know what a long period of one-sixth or one-third gravity would do. Maybe it wouldn’t be too bad, although I wouldn’t want to bet on that.

          • Anonymous says:

            Wearing an iron or lead suit won’t solve the negative effects on the circulatory system. Venus, by the way, has gravity similar to Earth’s. And a very nasty atmosphere.

          • Anonymous says:

            @gcochran9: we know the bad effects of zero gravity and the beneficial effects of lifting weights (e.g. it’s increasing bone density). I would bet low gravity is somewhere in between no gravity and 1g, although the effects are probably not going to be linear.

            Since we’re talking about colonization, the effects on fetuses and toddlers should also be considered (as with anything, I’d bet “more harmful than for adults”), and here even the 0.9g of Venus might be a problem.

            Still, Venus strikes me as the planet easiest to terraform to make habitable. AFAIK it has all the right ingredients except for hydrogen (which could be slowly transported there over the course of many centuries or millennia), and I guess we could find ways to cool it down somehow. The biggest problem is how to find the resources for such an extremely long term project. OTOH the very low gravity of Mars has no real solution whatsoever, not even theoretically.

          • reinertor says:

            That anonymous was me (reiner Tor).

          • melendwyr says:

            Mining the atmosphere of Venus for carbon, then constructing orbiting solar screens, would help deal with temperature and pressure. The lack of planetary rotation means that no ‘natural’ terraforming short of spinning the whole thing with collisions would be feasible. Perhaps something could be worked out with those orbital screens… a totally artificial day/night cycle.

            It’s still better than trying to terraform Mars.

          • cloudswrest says:

            ” OTOH the very low gravity of Mars has no real solution whatsoever, not even theoretically.”

            Ever hear of a centrifuge? Nothing high tech. Just a train of mobile homes on rails. A circular track, suitably high up the walls of a suitably sized crater. Said crater covered with an airdome, covered and ballasted by regolith to balance air pressure.

          • cloudswrest says:

            “OTOH the very low gravity of Mars has no real solution whatsoever, not even theoretically.”

            Ever hear of a centrifuge? Nothing high tech, just a train of mobile homes on rails. A circular track suitably high up the walls of a suitable crater. Said crater covered with an airdome. The airdome covered with regolith to act as ballast to balance the air pressure.

  18. Steve Sailer says:

    “the menace from Earth”

    I’m about halfway through rereading that Heinlein story right now, just at the point when the pre-Podkayne heroine is zipping on her wings to go flying in the air tank of Luna City.

    • TWS says:

      Good story and a surprise the first time you read it. You’re expecting an alien invasion, mysterious plague or nefarious conspiracy.

  19. Richard Sharpe says:

    I imagine that the loonies would manage to avoid contracting AIDS.

  20. Ravelin says:

    There’s plenty of good reasons to exploit the hell out of space (microgravity and hard vacuum allow for manufacture of useful materials that can’t be produced on Earth, a bonanza of mineral resources in asteroids, etc.) but why colonize it? It may prove advantageous to have personnel on-site, so something with sapient intelligence can intervene without a light-speed lag, but that’s a far cry from establishing permanent settlements. A more efficient use of the technological capability that would allow for permanent settlements on the Moon would be to expand the carrying capacity of the Earth – life on even a severely devastated and polluted Earth, or else in one of the Earth’s less pleasant areas (the Gobi Desert, Antarctica, somewhere on the bottom of the ocean…), would still be vastly easier than trying to sustain a permanent settlement on the Moon. After all, one wouldn’t have to undertake an interstellar flight to get there, the atmosphere would in all likelihood still be more or less breathable, etc.

    • gcochran9 says:

      Depends on your level of technical expertise. 2 million years ago, settlement of the Eurasian temperate zone was bleeding-edge technology – but it got easier. We can certainly settle the Solar system with near-term technology, if we choose to. And you’re forgetting one of the big payoffs: gafia.

      • Bryan says:

        Right. O’Neill’s proposals were based on 70s era tech.

        • Ravelin says:

          I think they were a…bit ambitious, given the state of the art of that era.

          You might be interested in the old SPS (Satellite Power System) project. This was a US program – it was conducted in the 1970s in response to the energy crisis. As its name implies, it would have entailed the construction of a system of solar power satellites to supply the US with electrical power. It was a huge effort, but they did a lot of work and produced some interesting results, although it was only a paper project.

          In particular, many US aerospace companies prepared proposals for reusable launch vehicles – SPS would have required the launch of many very large and heavy payloads over the course of several decades. Some of the proposals were quite credible, and they were based on the same general state of the art required for the Shuttle.

          Here’s a PDF you might like:

          Here’s further information on one of the proposed concepts, complete with some beautiful artwork:

          The Rockwell Starraker was probably one of the less credible proposals, but it was also one of the coolest.

          Anyway, if one wants to do something big in space, the first requirement is to develop a means to inexpensively put large payloads in orbit – that is the sine qua non of space exploitation. In the short term, that probably implies some sort of reusable launch vehicle.

          With regard to the analogy that was made, between a putative space colonization effort and the past migration of our ancestors out of Africa, one must remember that the hominids that made the trip didn’t just develop new technology. They themselves changed along the way more than a little bit, especially above the neck.

  21. cloudswrest says:

    “but why colonize it?”

    1. To get all our eggs out of one basket.
    2. To get away from the “riff raff”, be independent, found new civilizations, will to power, escape from the crab pot, etc.

      Do you think the colonists leaving for the new world from the 17th century on were doing it to “expand the carrying capacity” of or otherwise help the old world? Hell no. They were leaving to start a new life away from the old world.

  22. TWS says:

    I think hollowing out a big asteroid and providing spin might give you a better gravity and habitat than trying for Mars. Certainly better than the moon.

  23. Maciano says:

    “Why colonize space?”

    I read this response a lot. It’s like getting slapped by a random stranger without any reason.

    Why would you not want to colonize space? We’re not at the end of the road of human progress. There must be incredible possibilities, ideas we can’t even fathom now.

    The sense of purpose alone should make you want to do it.

    • Toddy Cat says:

      I’ve come to the conclusion that when it comes to space exploration, either you get it or you don’t. I remember back during the Apollo Program, the reaction among a lot of my friends and neighbors was either excitement at the thought of reaching out to other worlds, or seeing it all as a big waste of time and money. There was very little in between.

      • JayMan says:

        Well, much of the discussion on the merits of doing anything is really just seeking out/connecting with like-minded individuals. Values are heritable, so you can’t always sway people with facts and reason (especially when the thing in question has a normative element, as the matter of whether we should explore space does).

        Though I’m sure Drs. Cochran & Harpending are aware of this, that, by the way, underlies much of the built-in futility with blogs like this (and mine) and real talk in general. Some minds can’t be changed. But the process of discussion is important for elucidating the truth and educating (as Dr. Cochran once said: “you have to state important facts every so often, or nobody knows them anymore”). And then of course (while it may seem unfair to do so), ridiculing those who “don’t get it” – whether it be innocently or wantonly – in addition to serving an educational purpose, is just plain fun.

        • reiner Tor says:

          There was probably a genetic predisposition to become National Socialist and there is a genetic predisposition to become ethnomasochistic. Yet I seriously doubt that genetic changes in the past three generations have caused the changes in the numbers of National Socialists and ethnomasochists. So even though there is a genetic predisposition to believe in this or that, many people could still be argued with.

          First, there is a great many people who might have a genetic predisposition to believe in things like HBD, but since they think that total human equality is already proven by Science, they will just avoid the topic or parrot the party line. But once they learn that the Science of Equality is far from being settled (or, indeed, it might not even be science at all), they will be rather easily convinced by arguments.

          Second, there might be people who are genetically predisposed to be neither this nor that, but always accept what appears to be the more rational side. As long as HBD seems to be represented by skinheads and Adolf Hitler, they will rather side with Stephen Jay Gould, but as soon as they notice Drs. Cochran and Harpending, they will change their minds.

          Third, there might be people who are genetically predisposed to accept the better argument. They were taught at school that HBD is bunk, and since they find that most things they learn at school (like the Pythagorean theorem or the fact that Earth is in orbit around the Sun) tend to be true, they will accept it. Once they find that there is a more rational argument, they will change sides.

          Fourth, there might be people who simply go along with the majority. Once the first three categories are convinced, some members of this fourth category might be joining the new trend.

          Of course it’s possible that either oppression will get stronger or that the numbers in the first three categories are simply not numerous enough – I don’t know, but I wouldn’t label the whole effort futile so easily.

    • Ravelin says:

      Like I said, there’s lots of reason to exploit space – I drool at the thought of finding an asteroid full of rare-Earth metals, for example. But colonize? All I see is the trouble of trying to keep a bunch of squishy biological things alive in an incredibly harsh and miserable environment.

      (The picture does look a lot better if one is willing [assuming it proves possible] to abandon biology, however.)

      Then again, perhaps I shouldn’t discourage such romantic sentiments. There’d be a lot of very interesting new engineering problems to solve – and many fortunes have been made on the frontiers of past eras.

      • reiner Tor says:

        one is willing [assuming it proves possible] to abandon biology

        This is not quite possible if one wants to remain a human. “Uploading” my mind to a computer will create an entity quite different from me. It won’t be me. It won’t even be a copy of me. It won’t even be a human. Whatever it will be, I don’t want to know about it.

        • MawBTS says:

          But isn’t a human being an informational unit? If we can “write” a human using the letters A, C, T and G, shouldn’t we be able to translate that same human into binary (or something else) with no loss of data?

          • melendwyr says:
            1. We can’t ‘write a human’ with DNA. Organisms are more than their DNA.
            2. Sure, it’s probably possible to render any part of the universe into a finite amount of data – and if it isn’t, our data storage substances can also be infinite. But that doesn’t mean that we have any idea of how to accomplish it.
          • Ravelin says:

            What I had in mind was some sort of transcription of the contents of the CNS to a new medium – uploading, essentially. It’d be analogous to publishing an e-book edition of a book that was originally just a normal paper book, or, better yet, writing a computer version of a game like chess.

            But that’s a very hard engineering problem. It may well be possible somehow, but it’s probably even further off in the future than space exploitation or colonization – with the current state of the art, all we can do is speculate about it in general terms. Some have proposed that it might be accomplished by means of Drexlerian nanotechnology, but that whole business always struck me as a crock.

            As far off as it may be, though, it may be possible at this stage to make reasonably well-educated guesses. The analogy I’d like to use would be to Jules Verne’s From the Earth to the Moon. He wrote it a century before the Apollo missions. Needless to say, he didn’t get everything right – however, the specifications of the Columbiad were based on an engineering analysis he conducted – and he actually got a fair bit right. For instance, he anticipated that the launch site would be in Florida, and the dimensions and mass of the projectile the Columbiad fired were quite close to those of the Apollo CSM.

      • Greying Wanderer says:

        The sort of people who’d go into space wouldn’t need a reason.

  24. melendwyr says:

    A colony on the Moon? What a quaint concept. There’s no interest in actually doing the things required to establish humanity off Earth. It’s all publicity stunts, like landing a people on the Moon before sending even a single probe, or trying to stir up enthusiasm for a manned Mars mission instead of sending telepresence robots to the Moon.

    • gcochran9 says:

      “before sending even a single probe”


      • melendwyr says:

        No, I retract that error. There were a number of soft landings before Apollo sent humans there. I will now stand in the corner and contemplate my ignorance.

        • melendwyr says:

          A correct argument would be that we sent human to the Moon precipitously, before engaging in enough of a survey to even be reasonably certain of astronauts’ safety. We didn’t engage in a serious minerological examination even once we were there, missing important facts that later unmanned examinations have revealed.

          If we had wanted to actually establish a foothold in space, we would have done things very differently. And if we want to establish a foothold, we will need to do thing differently. I find it immensely frustrating, yet hilarious, that the most enthusiastic advocates for space exploration uniformly advocate a return to the previous approaches.

          • gcochran9 says:

            Surveyor 1, Surveyor 3, Surveyor 5, Surveyor 6, Surveyor 7.

            Luna-9, Luna-13

          • melendwyr says:

            Which told us very little worth knowing if we wanted humans to eventually live there. Or even if we just wanted to use the Moon as a resource extraction center.

            Human-crewed missions drilled a whole three meters below the Moon’s surface… in a handful of locations. If we were interested in attempting to find out what was there, why didn’t we actually do so? And given the very short lag time for a signal to travel from Earth to Luna and back, why didn’t we send lots of relatively cheap probes that could be remote-controlled from here? The return on investment for sending humans there seems to have been very low, even in terms of pure scientific knowledge.

            Much like the International Space Station, we seem to have decided to carry out the program before finding justifications for it… and the supposed practical benefits have never materialized.

    • Greying Wanderer says:

      There is a great deal of interest from certain types of people, a great deal of indifference from a large majority and a great deal of irrational hostility from others that will disappear when/if the majority of astronauts are East Asian.

  25. Harold says:

    “Fantastic, winning-Powerball-with-a-ticket-you-found-in-an-Arab-privy luck has ensured that all existing human populations have the same average IQ (and the same standard deviation!”

    But that’s just for a single variable. As every right-thinking person knows, every cognitive ability and behavioural tendency is equally distributed in every group. Fortuitously and fortunately every entry is the same in the whole damned matrix!
    A rather more improbable happenstance.

  26. Sean says:

    Khan Noonien Singh, took his genetically superior intellect off into space, because he lost the Eugenics Wars. The supreme test of high IQ is to downplay IQ, and act is if you think you are not really smart.

    • melendwyr says:

      No, the supreme test of high IQ is whether you apply your ability to process abstractions to the question of how problems ought to be approached, and then apply your conclusions. I’ve known plenty of high-IQ fools. It’s not enough.

      “Possessing talent is like receiving a present. Training is opening the box.”

      • Sean says:

        OK, compare Khan:”It was only the fact of my genetically-engineered intellect that allowed us to survive” Or “The idea that inferior genes account for the problems of the poor in general, and blacks in particular, isn’t new, of course. Racial supremacists have been using IQ tests to support their theories since the turn of the century. … With one finger out to the political wind, Mr. Murray has apparently decided that white America is ready for a return to good old-fashioned racism” “ (civil rights lawyer, Barack Obama, on NPR two decades ago:)

        You’ll never catch Obama saying he has a high IQ. because he has. Khan’s approach might be the right one, if you want to be voted one of the ten greatest film villains .

        • Pincher Martin says:

          “You’ll never catch Obama saying he has a high IQ. because he has.”

          Perhaps he just picks running mates who’ll do enough public bragging for the both of them.

          Joe Biden aside, the U.S. political class is usually filled with people who correctly sense that no one in their field ever got elected by bragging about their IQ.

          • Sean says:

            Just as JFK’s book Profiles of Courage implied that he possessed courage, talking about IQ implies you have a high IQ. But you have to do it the right way, like Obama; who is smart enough to give the impression he possesses intelligence of a very high order. How does he do that? Why, by saying there is nothing to IQ of course!

          • Pincher Martin says:


            I don’t think that tactic is quite as clever as you make it out to be, if it’s a tactic Obama is using at all, which I highly doubt.

            Obama doesn’t talk a lot about IQ. He doesn’t even talk about it infrequently. As far as I know, he spoke about the topic on just one occasion, back when he was a nobody civil rights lawyer. And when he did speak out on it, he said pretty much what every other wanna-be politician would say. Obama certainly didn’t write a book about IQ, in the way JFK wrote a book about courage.

            Profiles in Courage, on the other hand, was a political tactic – and not just to indirectly highlight the author’s courage. The book was published to also draw attention to the author’s quality of mind, which was why it was important for the Kennedys to fight back hard against the rumors that his aide Ted Sorenson actually wrote it, which, of course, he did.

  27. j says:

    When will you understand that the best life strategy for an intelligent person is to say there is no such thing as intelligence?

  28. Pingback: Progworld will never colonize the moon. « A House With No Child

  29. JayMan says:

    Here’s Elon Musk’s grand plan for Mars:

    The Elon Musk interview on Mars colonisation – Ross Andersen – Aeon

    The only thing is that he seems set on sending 1 million people to Mars. While New England and Quebec demonstrate that you only need a few thousand.

  30. JayMan says:

    Here’s another for you:

    A Star Trek alternate timeline story: what if Ceti Alpha VI never exploded? Khan Singh and his band may have been able to “peacefully” grow over time. Now there were about 50 individuals, so assuming 20 or so breeding pairs, and a net average fertility rate of 4 or so, by the time of The Next Generation era – ~3 generations later – there could have been 500-600 people on Ceti Alpha V. 500-600 genetic supermen…

    • melendwyr says:

      They’re only ‘supermen’ in contrast to baseline humans. By themselves, with themselves as a standard, they’re perfectly normal.

      I suspect that, given how easy life on that planet would have been, they would have lost most of their technology and begun to forget where they’d come from. Even with their longer lifespans, there’d be no point to learning advanced skills with nothing to do with them. They’d be at, perhaps, Iron Age level technology, no further.

      • JayMan says:


        “I suspect that, given how easy life on that planet would have been, they would have lost most of their technology and begun to forget where they’d come from.”

        Ceti Alpha V was described as a pretty harsh environment even before the catastrophe.

        Come now, after only 3 generations, they wouldn’t be much different from the original band. Khan is shown to be an infovore and highly technically inclined. You really think they would have lost interest in technology?

  31. Pingback: Hiper-Racismo – Outlandish

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