100 Years Ago: Man walks on the moon

22 July 2009

Friday, July 25, 1969

THERE has never been a Sunday quite like it before. While men knelt on earth in familiar adoration of the Most High, other men were hov­er­ing just above the moon’s surface, out in the terrible lone­liness of space, preparing to do what had often been dreamed of, but never done, and actually set foot on the moon. So ancient imaginings have been translated into modern reality. Man has burst out of his earthly con­­fines. The dreams of the science-fiction writers have sud­denly come true.

Some Christians this week may have been feeling uneasy, without exactly knowing why, at the con­trast between man-on-his-knees on earth, in humble worship of God, and man-on-the-moon in the sky, in triumphant reliance upon tech­nology’s power. If so, they should on swift reflection see that there is no necessary cause in these amazing events for any weakening of reli­gious faith, but rather indeed the reverse. It is just as true to-day as a week ago that the heavens declare the glory of God, not the glory of man, however ingenious man has proved to be; and it is still God’s handiwork, not the handi­work of the scientists of Houston, Texas, which the firmament chiefly and beyond all comparison shows. . .

What seems sadly certain is that walking on the moon will in itself contribute precisely nothing to the solutions of terrestrial problems. It will not help to halt war, or poverty, or racial tension, or crime, or disease. There is some reason to fear that indeed the great space ad­venture will make those problems worse than they need be. This could happen both by the diversion of vast resources (the cost of one moon rocket would pay for hundreds of hospitals) and by what Bertrand Russell has called the extension of “our strident and deadly disputes” to new worlds; he rightly sees no prospect of joy if the follies and hatreds which disfigure terrestrial politics are simply to be trans­planted to the planets.

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