Physics, Earth & Space Icon Physics, Earth & Space

Really, That’s Enough of the Media’s Ghoulish Exploitation of Stephen Hawking

Stephen_Hawking_in_Cambridge.jpg

The media’s exploitation of Stephen Hawking really needs to be called out. This hits a new low. From the Washington Post, among numerous other outlets venting the same story today:

Stephen Hawking just gave humanity a due date for finding another planet

If humanity survives the rise of artificial intelligence, the ravages of climate change and the threat of nuclear terrorism in the next century, it doesn’t mean we’re home free, according to Stephen Hawking.

The renowned theoretical physicist has gone as far as providing humanity with a deadline for finding another planet to colonize: We have 1,000 years.

Remaining on Earth any longer, Hawking believes, places humanity at great risk of encountering another mass extinction.

“We must … continue to go into space for the future of humanity,” the 74-year-old Cambridge professor said during a speech Tuesday at Oxford University Union, according to the Daily Express.

“I don’t think we will survive another 1,000 years without escaping beyond our fragile planet,” he added.

Now he’s put a firm sell-by date on planet Earth. Let’s be candid — would we be listening to this, one doomsday prediction after another, if Dr. Hawking were in ordinary good health for his age with no visible bodily impairments? (See “Dr. Hawking’s First World Problem: What If Aliens Call!?” where I provided a very partial catalogue of his apocalyptic warnings.)

I wouldn’t dare to try to armchair-psychoanalyze Hawking himself, much less to criticize him. Going about his business daily as he does, given his condition, is nothing short of heroic. But the media’s calculating use of him in pursuit of Internet traffic, with his appearance and impairment, is transparent and ghoulish. It would be one thing if Hawking’s persistent message were uplifting or illuminating, but it’s just the opposite.

This profiting from a man’s vulnerability, from the public’s own perverse hunger for promises of doom and matching pitiable human images, is another good reason for blasting the media.

Photo: Stephen Hawking by Doug Wheller [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons.

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