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Argument: Space Race - Please evaluate

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Argument: Space Race - Please evaluate [#permalink] New post 20 Mar 2011, 23:18
ESSAY QUESTION:
The following appeared in a science magazine:

“The “Space Race” of the 1960’s between the USA and Russia was very expensive but it yielded a tremendous number of technological advances. These advances have provided many economic and humanitarian benefits. The benefits have more than paid for the effort and money spent during the Space Race and therefore the government should make allowances within the budget to pay for a manned Mars landing by 2020.”

Discuss how well reasoned you find this argument. Point out flaws in the argument's logic and analyze the argument's underlying assumptions. In addition, evaluate how supporting evidence is used and what evidence might counter the argument's conclusion. You may also discuss what additional evidence could be used to strengthen the argument or what changes would make the argument more logically sound.

YOUR RESPONSE:
The author argues that even though the "Space Race" between the USA and Russia in the 1960s was very costly, it also yielded tremendous number of technological advances, therefore the government should fund efforts towards a manned Mars landing by 2020. This argument is unconvincing, lacks backing data and contains many logical flaws. I will discuss in more details as follows:

Firstly, the author notes that the "Space Race" brought about numerous technological advances that provided economic and humanitarian benefits. This is a presumptuous argument that does not have any backing evidence. The author makes no mention of exactly what sort of technologies were developed and how this development may contribute towards a better daily life for citizens of the USA and Russia. The author also fails to discuss and refute the possible negative effects that the project might have had on the lives of the people.

Secondly, the author reasons that the benefits from the development of the "Space Race" more than paid for the effort and money spent towards it. This sort of claim cannot be made without actual figures comparing the costs and benefits of the project. Furthermore, when we are performing a cost-analysis of a project, we must take into account the opportunity cost of that project. In other words, the time and money dedicated to building a spaceship could be used to build roads, schools, or support scientific research in other domains. These activities may in turn generate benefits for the citizens. Consequently, the author's claim would be greatly strengthened if he/she tackles these alternative scenarios and discuss how these benefits are in relation to those generated by the "Space Race."

Thirdly, the author makes a claim that the government should make allowances within the budget to pay for manned Mars landing by 2020. This claim is the weakest and most unsubstantiated part of the author's argument. Even when we assume that the "Space Race" project brought about positive impact to people's lives (a claim that is still unproven as discussed above), it is still not clear why we should do the same for the manned-Mars landing project. If anything at all, the latter probably uses research based on the technologies advances of the former, which means that even when the result is further technological advances, they are likely to be specific to the space industry and hardly of use anywhere else. Even if these technologies could benefit mankind more generally, the author still needs to provide an analysis of alternative scenarios as discussed above in order to fully understand the costs and benefits of such a project. Last but not least, the author sets the year 2020 as the completion goal of the project without explaining why this is the most suitable deadline.

In conclusion, the argument that since the "Space Race" brought about numerous technologies beneficial to humankind governments should fund a manned Mars landing suffers from numerous logical flaws and lacks a rigorous analysis of the actual costs and benefits involved. The author's argument could be strengthened if he/she provides specific examples, cost/benefit data, as well as providing sound explanations for his/her claims.
Argument: Space Race - Please evaluate   [#permalink] 20 Mar 2011, 23:18
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