Science and Religion Clash Over Telescope Construction on Sacred Summit

By Shannon Hall | May 9, 2015 2:44 pm
The existing telescopes on Mauna Kea. Image by flyingsinger via Flickr

The existing telescopes on Mauna Kea. Image by flyingsinger via Flickr

When Paul Coleman summits Mauna Kea, the dormant volcano in Hawai’i that rises 13,796 feet above the Pacific, he is struck by two things. First there are the colossal observatories, whose domes gleam in the sunlight by day and glimpse the farthest reaches of the universe by night. Second, there is the red dusted mountain itself, which in his religion is the home of the gods.

But Coleman, an astronomer at the University of Hawai’i and a native Hawaiian, may be one of the few people on Mauna Kea who can fully appreciate this dichotomy. Today, the sacred mountain has become a battleground between astronomers, Hawaiians and environmentalists. The issue is that astronomers have placed 13 telescopes at its summit and now wish to build one more: The Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT), which will be the largest and most powerful yet.

The telescope’s opponents argue that not only is the volcano sacred ground, it’s environmentally fragile land and also ceded land, meaning that it should be used for the benefit of native people. While the operators of the new telescope have held many conversations with Native Hawaiians, conducted a thorough environmental impact statement and proposed paying $1 million yearly for the land plus another $2 million yearly to support local education programs, the protestors say it’s not enough.

“Mauna Kea is our temple,” said Kealoha Pisciotta, one of a half-dozen plaintiffs suing to stop the project. “It’s not a question that we’re against astronomy. We’re just for Mauna Kea.”

But for astronomers like Coleman, the colossal telescope is also a temple. With a mirror nearly three times larger than any other on Earth, it will see deeper into the universe than any other ground-based telescope. And built with phenomenal optics in such a pristine location, it will produce sharper pictures than even the Hubble Space Telescope.

Sacred Ground and Skies

Two lawsuits are in motion against the $1.5 billion project. In October, activists disrupted the project’s groundbreaking. And on April 7, Hawai’i Governor David Ige halted construction after more protests and over a dozen arrests. He has since extended the moratorium several times, with no timetable for resuming construction.

The amount of development at the summit is among the native Hawaiians’ complaints. Some of the telescopes can now be seen by 72 percent of the island’s population, causing the plaintiffs to refer to it not as a sacred summit but as an “industrial park.”

Native Hawaiians still practice many religious ceremonies on the mountain, and Mauna Kea’s slopes are dotted with shrines, altars and burial grounds. Some ceremonies include walking from sea level to the summit. Others include gathering snow water from sacred places for medicine. All include placing yourself in time and space in a way that allows you to appreciate your connectedness with nature.

“It is a stunningly beautiful experience to stand on the side of the mountain and look out,” said Deborah Ward, a retired environmental scientist at the University of Hawaii and another plaintiff in the case. “To me it’s a spiritual experience… And frankly I know very well that one more telescope will not make it better, it will make it harder to enjoy that experience.”

The World’s First Mega-Telescope

The proposed telescope is near and dear to the hearts of astronomers not just in Hawai’i but worldwide. It will combine 492 individual hexagonal mirrors, each 1.4 meters across, to make it the first “mega-telescope” — the next generation of observatories that will open the door to major discoveries.

Artist's rendering of the Thirty Meter Telescope. Courtesy: TMT

Artist’s rendering of the Thirty Meter Telescope. Courtesy: TMT

TMT’s construction is racing against that of two other competing telescopes — the European Extremely Large Telescope and the Giant Magellan Telescope — both of which will be built in Chile. Although Pisciotta argues that the TMT corporation should simply invest in these two other telescopes, the TMT’s equally pristine location is irreplaceable. At 20 degrees north of the equator, it will be able to scan the northern skies, invisible from Chile.

Astronomers are eagerly anticipating the telescope’s arrival with a long to-do list. The mega-telescope will search for signs of life outside the solar system, observe the stellar explosions that created the elements abundant in human beings and glimpse the farthest edge of the universe.

An Economic Issue

But the debate is actually only tangentially about astronomy. Rather, protestors say, it’s a cultural, environmental, and land-use debate.

Not only is the land sacred and fragile, it’s a part of the 1.8 million acres of land (nearly 44 percent of Hawai’i’s total land) that were once the crown lands of the Hawaiian monarchy. When Hawai’i became a U.S. state, a number of clauses described how the lands could be used, one of which is for the benefit of native Hawaiians.

A recent study found that in 2012 astronomy created an economic impact of about $168 million and brought almost 1,400 jobs to the islands that year alone. But though astronomy brings economic benefits to the islands, it’s debated whether those benefits are being shared amongst all residents.

“That raises the issue of whether or not native Hawaiians are being cheated by the fact that the holder of the master lease, the University of Hawai’i, basically pays $1 a year for that lease and then sublets the lands out under these telescopes,” said Jon Osorio, a professor of Hawaiian studies at the University of Hawai’i. “There are no substantial benefits going to native Hawaiians for the building of these multi-million dollar projects on the top of the hill.”

Careful Steps

The TMT won’t pay a $1 lease like the other Mauna Kea telescopes. They will pay $1 million to lease the site and give another $2 million toward education and training for Hawaii residents for the next 50 years. “It’s such a powerful way for Hawaiians to enter into this century,” Coleman said of the educational funds.

Its owners, an international consortium based in Pasadena, California, have been far more careful than their predecessors in taking opposition seriously. Henry Yang, board chair of the TMT, and Jean-Lou Chameau, president of Cal Tech, flew to the Big Island more than 15 times to talk to the community.

But progress has been stop-and-go. In 2011 there was a contested case, but the board ruled in favor of the TMT and they were given the go-ahead to begin construction. Then the opponents took further action and went to court. They lost the first round in May 2014, but have since appealed that decision to the Intermediate Court of Appeals.

The fact that both previous cases have been ruled in their favor encourages the TMT leaders that the telescope will be built. Still, it might take a while before the court cases are resolved. “My understanding is that the intermediate court of appeals takes a long time,” said Sandra Dawson, the Hawai’i community affairs manager for the TMT. “On our schedule we don’t even have a possible date.”

The Way Forward

Although the halted construction trucks might make it look as though all work has been stalled, TMT managers are continuing to move forward. They met in Pasadena in late April to discuss the Hawaiian protests, a recent funding commitment from the Canadian government, and other logistics crucial to the project. Meanwhile, TMT partners continue to grind the telescope’s many mirrors and work on the telescope’s various instruments.

Although protests are ongoing, opponents, too, are taking the long view. Pisciotta stands firm that they will win in the Supreme Court. But if that case fails, she says, then “there are other places where legal challenges will come forward,” including possibly contesting the University of Hawaii’s current lease of the overall summit area, set to expire in 2033.

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  • http://www.mazepath.com/uncleal/qz4.htm Uncle Al

    Ancient gods on our side tossed lightning bolts, blasted the land with fire and brimstone, and slaughtered whole nations. Sandwich Islands’ gods were conquered by a fruit company. It was not gods versus a BFG 9000 in the Pacific, it was gods versus a pineapple cannery. Puny gods.

    Eschew the congenitally inconsequential lest ye embrace Jim Jones or Heaven’s Gate. Drink the Kool-Aid, lose your yarbles – test of faith.

    • MsColleen

      Ridiculing religion earns you no respect.
      For the record, I’m an atheist. I’m NOT an anti-theist.

      • Matthew Slyfield

        “anti-theist”

        I’ll have to remember that one. It’s a good term for what I have referred to as evangelical atheists (vocal atheists who seem to be offended by the very idea of other people believing in God).

      • Brian Lockett

        Sincerity is something that lies with very few in life. It doesn’t surprise me that most atheists are assholes and many are just as much morons in everyday life as the people they ridicule–because that’s the same story with most people of all beliefs in life. Few are self-honest enough to be sincere.

    • Johnnie Maul

      LOL, (Uncle Al I like you), All of that ended with the birth, death and resurrection of JESUS CHRIST. We are now ordered to love our enemies. And zeus (lighting, satan) is referred to in the bible as the devil, Revelation 2:12 “And to the angel of the church in Pergamum write: The One who has the sharp two-edged sword says this: ‘I know where you dwell, where satan’s throne is; and you hold fast My name, and did not deny My faith even in the days of Antipas, My witness, My faithful one, who was killed among you, where satan dwells.… (That island Pergamum, was the seat of zeus) German Archaeologist took the seat of zeus to Germany in 1938. And that did not get hitler very far!

      The GOD of the multi-verse is a GOD of love!

      Uncle Al, (I enjoy your comments and your diverse worldly kowledge), because you are asleep and you do not know what you are saying, and so at this moment in time and space nothing will happen to you. Eg 1 Timothy 1:12 I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has strengthened me, because He considered me faithful, putting me into service,even though I was formerly a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent aggressor. (He killed Christians, Saul who is now Paul) Yet I was shown mercy because I acted ignorantly in unbelief; and the grace of our Lord was more than abundant, with the faith and love which are found in Christ Jesus.… I believe GOD has a plan for you, one way or another, I hope the better of the two. Keep an open mind and use your worldly knowledge for the good of the Multi-Verse. Wake up, as in the time of Moses, GOD has heard our prayers considering the mass killing of unborn babies (1,334,376,744 and counting, not including birth control), and everybody knows what happen to Pharaoh and Egypt’s first born, because the people of Egypt were behind Pharaoh and the laws of Egypt 100 %.

      The second coming is soon, do the math, and add in birth control and if you know your Bible, you will know what math, I’m referring too. LOL, GOD laughs at worldly knowledge

      • Buddy199

        Consciousness is the underlying fabric of the physical universe, as Max Planck pointed out. Humans are intuitively aware of that, expressed in their religious traditions.

        • Johnnie Maul

          I like that. It is so true, the universe is controlled by laws, the laws of the God consciousness which is faster than light speed. The speed of the God consciousness is infinite.

      • http://www.mazepath.com/uncleal/qz4.htm Uncle Al

        Youtube watch?v=LStcajxvb_E
        The Catholic Church’s preferred method.
        Youtube watch?v=M114bK4qaiM
        Licence to be a public nuisance.
        Youtube watch?v=atTSwau9fwM
        Scripture as toilet paper
        Youtube watch?v=qZO2u-jDNpQ
        Cult of personality
        Youtube /watch?v=ReYfDlIa-Z8
        And then there’s this.

        Youtube watch?v=7hWl8jq4zLI
        Start at 1:30 to learn about the competition. Be afraid, be very, very afraid – we found the stupid ones, then marginalized them.

        • Johnnie Maul

          LOL, I’m not Catholic, but the reason I mentioned the Pope calling UC Berkeley to thank Geoff Marcy for the discovery of planets around solar like stars. And the possibility of life on other planets. Anyway, I’m in the Pro-Life movement!
          I work with anybody that is Pro-Life. Oh, and I’m all for the telescope on top of that old volcano, and what ever you do, don’t take a rock off that mountain. You’ll wind up sending it back by mail.
          And if you don’t believe me, go ahead and take a rock. I dare ya.

    • Brian Lockett

      It doesn’t surprise me that most atheists like yourself are complete assholes and that many are just as much dishonest in everyday life as the many people you ridicule–because that’s the same story with most people of all beliefs in life.

      You atheists are perhaps the most arrogant and snobby about it. It takes a lot of nerve to count your doubts as certainty enough to ridicule the other guy’s faith. You play the same game of Calvinball, much of the time.

      • http://www.mazepath.com/uncleal/qz4.htm Uncle Al

        God loves you as He loved His son. Can you count to 39?

        • Small_Businessman

          Can YOU count to two? I didn’t think so.

          • http://www.mazepath.com/uncleal/qz4.htm Uncle Al

            It’s “three,” like a shamrock, plus a few thousand ad hoc purchasable heavenly ears.

          • Small_Businessman

            No, before you can count to “three” you must learn to count to “two’. But I knew you couldn’t do it.

          • http://www.mazepath.com/uncleal/qz4.htm Uncle Al

            I can count to 1023 using my ten fingers and two fists. Explain the process. “4” is especially pertinent to you.

          • Small_Businessman

            ROFLMAO! You’d have to pull down your pants to count to 11.

          • http://www.mazepath.com/uncleal/qz4.htm Uncle Al

            13

    • JacquesPinto

      What is your point? A majority of Hawaiians may not want another telescope on their mountain because it disturbs their view.

      • http://www.mazepath.com/uncleal/qz4.htm Uncle Al

        Mauna Kea is 13,796 ft tall. Do you really believe anything at the top is visible from ground level? Nobody is proposing to screw around with the Sophora chrysophyllaMyoporum sandwicense (māmane–naio) forest on its flanks or the Acacia koaMetrosideros polymorpha (koa–ʻōhiʻa) forest at its base. We suffer shrill complaints of infants seeing an unused toy grabbed by another. ‘Waaa!”

        • Small_Businessman

          And you know this – how? Do you live there? Have you ever BEEN there? I didn’t think so – because I have. And yes, you CAN see the observatories are visible from many places on the island near sea level. And everywhere “ground level” is 13,795 feet.
          You continue to make a fool of yourself.

          • mbkeefer

            That is a pretty good eye to make object only about 6 minutes across.

          • Small_Businessman

            Not really. The moon is only 30 arc minutes across, and one can easily see details on the moon much less than 1/5 the width of the moon.

          • mbkeefer

            But, could you find the moon in the day light sky if it was 1/5 its current size? Let alone notice it if you weren’t looking for it.

          • Small_Businessman

            Immaterial. You said “That is a pretty good eye to make object only about 6 minutes across.”. I just pointed out the eye is quite capable of seeing objects that small. The moon is only an example even you should be familiar with.

            Another example – you can see tall radio towers, which are much narrower than an observatory, from distances of 20-30 miles.

            Six arc minutes is actually pretty big.

  • Geoffrey Knudsen

    Is the title for this article a bit disingenuous? I’m not sure it’s accurate to categorize the issue as a conflict between science and religion. While there is some context in the article outlining some of the protesters perspectives, the title (as with all titles) frames the discussion. It’s headlines like this that force the protesters to keep reiterating that they are not against science at all; in fact they all seem to universally appreciate what the telescope can do. They simply object to the choice of location for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is their belief that the construction would not meet the minimum requirements set out by law to develop on this land which is designated for conservation. Is the issue science versus religion or rather a fundamental question about the use of land, especially as it relates to sacred spaces? What do titles like this do to perpetuate the image of Native Hawaiians as remnants of a primitive or stone aged culture? Left unquestioned, quotes like “It’s such a powerful way for Hawaiians to enter into this century,” perpetuate this stereotype. How does all this affect the perception of Native Hawaiians as not having a living, breathing culture that has and continues to evolve with modernity and the complex world around them; a culture that just might have valuable insights into ways that land might be best utilized to maintain its integrity and productivity in a modern world? Are we limiting ourselves by assuming that science and religion are mutually exclusive? Are we limiting ourselves by assuming that Hawaiian land rights claims are mutually exclusive with science and advancement?

    • http://wecameinpeace.net/ We Came In Peace

      “It’s such a powerful way for Hawaiians to enter into this century,” That’s a good catch Geoffery. Some have made science their religion and even worship it blindly. Symptoms include feelings of righteousness , superiority, and disregard for pov external to the church.

      • Greg Robert

        Quote: “Symptoms include feelings of righteousness , superiority, and disregard for pov external to the church. That can’t be good faith.”

        That is an excellent decription of religious people.

    • Angela

      I generally agree with most of what you said, but as someone who sees the protest signs on the streets and at the university and hears the protest songs on the radio, I can tell you that it’s not entirely accurate that none of the protestors are anti-science or that they universally appreciate why Maunakea is special to astronomers or what TMT would be able to do. A lot of the rhetoric I’ve seen/heard has involved scathing mockery of astronomy or science in general. I’ve had to explain to a young Hawaiian man why Maunakea’s summit is so desirable to astronomers and the scale of the science being done up there (his ideas involved the kinds of observations I could make with a pair of binoculars).

      Again, I largely agree with your points, and I’m sure many in the movement understand what’s at stake from a scientific perspective, but the movement, as large movements do, attracts a lot of “followers” and produces a lot of misinformation, and while I deeply sympathize with the Native Hawaiian protesters in their primary goal of reclaiming some control over what was taken from them, I find the prevalence of anti-science rhetoric disturbing and dangerous.

      I do hope all parties can reach a compromise. I do believe strongly that Maunakea’s telescopes are immensely beneficial to Hawai‘i and to all of humankind, but I also agree that the Native Hawaiian community deserves much more than what they’re getting out of the deal (especially as it’s a deal they never really agreed to).

      • JacquesPinto

        The “anti-science” rhetoric is only really “disturbing” and “dangerous” to your hegemonic contextualization of Hawai’i and Hawaiians as belonging to a small class of academics. You know that any political movement is driven by agitation that need not have anything to do with the truth simply because democracy operates according to volume more than logic. As such, the academic minority now resorts to accusing Hawaiians of being ignorant, as if government were legitimized by education rather than consent. The comical fact is, the elitist American scientific community is the first to support leftist politics including universal franchisement when it seems the majority favors their social policies, yet also the first to imply voting rights should be granted after passing tests whenever the local will contradicts their agenda.

        This is a democracy issue, not a “religion versus science” issue.

      • http://wecameinpeace.net/ We Came In Peace

        Agreed. They are not against the science aspect of the project nor even against the idea of sharing this amazing site. I reckon they figured the past and current deal ‘given’ to them for their own land did not live up to the ‘best in world’ status. And they know how good the site is just as well as the scientists.

      • http://wecameinpeace.net/ We Came In Peace

        I suppose it’s convenient to see and frame the protests as anti-science and anti-sharing but your last paragraph was perfect.

  • Johnnie Maul

    Here is what you could argue: That the location is perfect, (in a chain of telescopes) for also, spotting (early warning system) an asteroid or comet, (coming from the direction of the sun), as predicted in the bible. And it could possilbly end all life on earth as we know it.

    • Brad

      The TMT is not looking for asteroids or comets that might hit us and there is no program to stop them from hitting us if there were any. You read too many comic books. The TMT is looking much farther away than anything we need to worry about hitting the planet.

      • Johnnie Maul

        Nice picture Brad, how many accounts do you have?? 1 K, And oh really, Brad, I remember when the Pope called UC Berkeley, to one of my teachers do you? Do you remember why and the reason for the call? I’ll give you a hint. It was in the late 90’s.

        • Brad

          I have one Disqus account. Now what are you babbling about ?

          • Johnnie Maul

            LOL have a great night trying to figure out the question.

          • Brad

            Okay you have a great life trying to understand the concept of default avatars on public message boards.

          • Johnnie Maul

            Anybody who knows anybody in Astronomy (AAAS) knows who Pope John Paul II called at UC Berkeley. And your not one of them, Brad!

            The American Astronomical Society’s

            Tinsley Prize for 2002 goes to Geoffrey W.
            Marcy of The University of California,
            Berkeley and San Francisco State
            University; R. Paul Butler, Department of
            Terrestrial Magnetism (DTM), Carnegie
            Institution of Washington, and Steven S.
            Vogt, of the UCO/Lick Observatory and the
            University of California, Santa Cruz. The
            three were cited “for their pioneering work
            in characterizing planetary systems orbiting
            distant stars. After developing a method to
            enable the highest precision Doppler
            measurements currently possible in
            astrophysics, they used first the 3m
            telescope at Lick Observatory and now a
            Keck 10m telescope to discover a number of
            firsts: the first system of multiple planets
            around a solar-like star; the first planet that
            transits another star, and the first planets that
            are likely to have masses comparable to
            Saturn. Approximately 60 percent of the
            planets now known outside our solar system
            were discovered by Marcy, Butler and Vogt
            and their collaborators, and their systematic
            and long-term program has established that
            solar systems exist that are substantially
            different from our own, with “hot Jupiters”
            and highly eccentric orbits. These surprising
            results have stimulated much new
            theoretical work on the theory of planet
            formation and on how the history of our
            solar system differs from the evolution of
            the other planetary systems discovered to
            date.”
            Paul Butler has been staff scientist at DTM
            since 1999. He earned a PhD from the
            University of Maryland in 1993 and went on
            to research positions at San Francisco State
            University, UC Berkeley and the Anglo-
            Australian Observatory. As early as 1995
            and often since then, he has been featured in
            the press and has won a number of major
            awards, including the National Academy of
            Sciences Henry Draper Medal in 2001
            which he shared with Geoff Marcy. In
            January 1996, he was ABC News Person of
            the Week, and a year later was named by
            Newsweek as one of “100 Americans for the
            Next Century.” He was AAS Centennial
            Lecturer in 2000.
            In 1982, Geoff Marcy received his PhD in
            astronomy and astrophysics from the
            University of California, Santa Cruz and for
            two years afterwards was a Carnegie Fellow
            at the Carnegie Institution of Washington.
            He joined the faculty of San Francisco State
            University in 1984 where he continues as
            adjunct professor of physics and astronomy.
            In 1999 he became professor of astronomy
            at the University of California, Berkeley. He
            has won many distinguished honors,
            including in 2001 the Henry Draper Medal
            from the National Academy of Sciences
            which he shared with Paul Butler. He was
            elected to the California Academy of
            Sciences in 1996, was voted California
            Scientist of the Year in 2000, and was
            elected to the National Academy of Sciences
            in 2002.
            Steve Vogt has been at UCO/Lick
            Observatory and the University of Santa
            Cruz for the past 24 years where he is
            currently an astronomer and professor of
            astronomy and astrophysics. He obtained his
            PhD in astronomy at The University of
            Texas at Austin. His professional activities
            at Santa Cruz involve graduate and
            undergraduate teaching, scientific research,
            and development of instrumentation for
            UCO/Lick Observatory and for the Keck
            Observatory. He was the builder of the
            Hamilton Spectrograph at Lick, with which
            most of the early known extrasolar planets
            were discovered and was Principal
            Investigator of the HIRES spectrometer on
            the Keck 10m telescope. His current
            research interests primarily concern using
            HIRES in an extensive survey for extrasolar
            planets around nearby stars. He is a past
            recipient of the Muhlmann Award from the
            Astronomical Society of the Pacific, and the
            Grand Prix Andre Lallemand from the
            French Academy of Sciences.

            The Beatrice M. Tinsley Prize is awarded
            every two years to recognize an outstanding
            research contribution to astronomy or
            astrophysics of an exceptionally creative or
            innovative character.

          • Brad

            Why are you copying and posting a list of bios from 13 years ago ?

          • Small_Businessman

            Because he can! Of course, he doesn’t understand a single word of it…

          • Johnnie Maul

            The Pope called one of these three gentleman. Which one?

          • Brad

            Geoff Marcey but I don’t know what you think that has to do about anything.

            Your other posts say the end is coming soon and other crazy rantings, If so why all the bother going to space? If you are trying to “escape a doomed planet” don’t you equate that as an attempt at defying God ?

            (why do I get the feeling there is going to be a weird answer coming)

      • Johnnie Maul

        The private sector has invested in tracking and researching in the mining of Asteroids and comets. Further you probably don’t have an ultra-secret clearance.

        • Brad

          Really ? Name one. Again you are going for science fiction. There are no companies that are currently investing in actually going to space to mine asteroids and they won’t anytime soon. The TMT will be looking much much farther away than we could travel in a 1000 years making that aspect far less likely. The reality is if we were able to efficiently mine a mineral rich asteroid the estimates would drive down the cost of those materials that we have and the profit margin would be lost.

          I can not confirm or deny my ultra-secret clearance.

          • Johnnie Maul

            LOL, I’ll name two (2), Deltion Innovation Ltd. and Planetary Resources, and these companies are pacifically interested in water H2O, the most valuable commodity in space! First you need it to survive and by breaking it down into Hydrogen and Oxygen = Rocket fuel

          • Brad

            Well lets see what Delton has to say on their website about it :
            “It may not be a giant leap for mankind or even a small step for mining — not
            yet, anyway ”

            Planetary Resources hasn’t successfully launched anything other than a website (where you can buy a t-shirt) but they are also investing in the technology to mine in space- that is the difference.

            Yes they are investing in the technology to mine in space but they are not in the process of anything other than bringing samples back. If you call that mining. If you look at the statement was “actually going to space to mine”.

          • Johnnie Maul

            Now Brad, why can’t we just get along? All good attorney’s know the answers to any questions and statement they are making! Let’s be friends LOL And here is another tidbit of information, our richest mines on this planet, such as Platinum deposits are from asteroids that have struck our planet hundreds of millions of years ago

          • Brad

            I will agree that we can mine the asteroids that have crashed to earth.

          • Johnnie Maul

            Cool, are we friends now. Keep up the good work
            and we’ll chat later Brada

          • LeslieFish

            Don’t forget the SETI program.

  • NavyBlue1962

    No,a telescope is not a temple. Stay off of it.

  • Brian Lockett

    Oh, look. Some white people trying to justify taking someone else’s original land, playing the “for the better good” line again. What are the odds?

    • Buddy199

      All races have done the same throughout history, white Europeans just hapoened to be the best at it.

    • CrankyMiddleAgedGuy

      Hang on. Governments take land for all sort of reasons involving the common good. There have been recent protests in London because of land needed for a high-speed rail line. I fail to see the difference between a telescope and a rail line, especially since this seems to be about money. To give in would also be racist (unconstitutional?) so the natives should go to h****

  • Johnnie Maul

    Dear Brad, anybody who knows anybody in Astronomy (AAAS) knows who Pope John Paul II called at UC Berkeley. LOL here is a very good hint who the Pope called:

    The American Astronomical Society’s

    Tinsley Prize for 2002 goes to Geoffrey W.
    Marcy of The University of California,
    Berkeley and San Francisco State
    University; R. Paul Butler, Department of
    Terrestrial Magnetism (DTM), Carnegie
    Institution of Washington, and Steven S.
    Vogt, of the UCO/Lick Observatory and the
    University of California, Santa Cruz. The
    three were cited “for their pioneering work
    in characterizing planetary systems orbiting
    distant stars. After developing a method to
    enable the highest precision Doppler
    measurements currently possible in
    astrophysics, they used first the 3m
    telescope at Lick Observatory and now a
    Keck 10m telescope to discover a number of
    firsts: the first system of multiple planets
    around a solar-like star; the first planet that
    transits another star, and the first planets that
    are likely to have masses comparable to
    Saturn. Approximately 60 percent of the
    planets now known outside our solar system
    were discovered by Marcy, Butler and Vogt
    and their collaborators, and their systematic
    and long-term program has established that
    solar systems exist that are substantially
    different from our own, with “hot Jupiters”
    and highly eccentric orbits. These surprising
    results have stimulated much new
    theoretical work on the theory of planet
    formation and on how the history of our
    solar system differs from the evolution of
    the other planetary systems discovered to
    date.”
    Paul Butler has been staff scientist at DTM
    since 1999. He earned a PhD from the
    University of Maryland in 1993 and went on
    to research positions at San Francisco State
    University, UC Berkeley and the Anglo-
    Australian Observatory. As early as 1995
    and often since then, he has been featured in
    the press and has won a number of major
    awards, including the National Academy of
    Sciences Henry Draper Medal in 2001
    which he shared with Geoff Marcy. In
    January 1996, he was ABC News Person of
    the Week, and a year later was named by
    Newsweek as one of “100 Americans for the
    Next Century.” He was AAS Centennial
    Lecturer in 2000.
    In 1982, Geoff Marcy received his PhD in
    astronomy and astrophysics from the
    University of California, Santa Cruz and for
    two years afterwards was a Carnegie Fellow
    at the Carnegie Institution of Washington.
    He joined the faculty of San Francisco State
    University in 1984 where he continues as
    adjunct professor of physics and astronomy.
    In 1999 he became professor of astronomy
    at the University of California, Berkeley. He
    has won many distinguished honors,
    including in 2001 the Henry Draper Medal
    from the National Academy of Sciences
    which he shared with Paul Butler. He was
    elected to the California Academy of
    Sciences in 1996, was voted California
    Scientist of the Year in 2000, and was
    elected to the National Academy of Sciences
    in 2002.
    Steve Vogt has been at UCO/Lick
    Observatory and the University of Santa
    Cruz for the past 24 years where he is
    currently an astronomer and professor of
    astronomy and astrophysics. He obtained his
    PhD in astronomy at The University of
    Texas at Austin. His professional activities
    at Santa Cruz involve graduate and
    undergraduate teaching, scientific research,
    and development of instrumentation for
    UCO/Lick Observatory and for the Keck
    Observatory. He was the builder of the
    Hamilton Spectrograph at Lick, with which
    most of the early known extrasolar planets
    were discovered and was Principal
    Investigator of the HIRES spectrometer on
    the Keck 10m telescope. His current
    research interests primarily concern using
    HIRES in an extensive survey for extrasolar
    planets around nearby stars. He is a past
    recipient of the Muhlmann Award from the
    Astronomical Society of the Pacific, and the
    Grand Prix Andre Lallemand from the
    French Academy of Sciences.

    The Beatrice M. Tinsley Prize is awarded
    every two years to recognize an outstanding
    research contribution to astronomy or
    astrophysics of an exceptionally creative or
    innovative character.

    • Brad

      Just saw this you are just copying and pasting random information from the American Astronomical Society newsletters.

      • Small_Businessman

        Yes, too bad he doesn’t understand any of it!

        • Johnnie Maul

          Oh, mr. no name, Pay me (your name and address is the payment) LOL, and I’ll explain it to you, it’s very simple!

          • Small_Businessman

            I have a better idea. I’ll give you $0.02 and you can do the human race a favor by removing yourself from it.

          • Small_Businessman

            Better idea. I’ll pay you $0.02 and you remove yourself from the human race. A win-win situation for all.

        • Johnnie Maul

          Oh, mr. no name, Pay me (1 billion dollars USC) LOL, and I’ll explain the secret to the universe, for example the Big Bang and why the universe is not slowing down, I wrote the formula?

          • Small_Businessman

            The only “secret” you have is how wee your willie is! ROFLMAO!

  • Buddy199

    Hopefully, the parties can respectfully work it out. The Hawaiians would be giving a great gift to humanity.

    • foxpacific

      The Hawaiians keep giving gifts, or rather people keep taking them, and Hawaiians get exactly nothing for it…

      • Buddy199

        Hey, that’s not exactly true, we gave them Spam.

        • foxpacific

          You mean rerouted their resources away from their food crops, then import people and money that compete with them for housing and jobs in an economy what was forced upon them, so they are stuck eating cans of mystery meat because all that is now affordable to them is throw away meat from other processes?

    • Brad

      Really ? What is the gift they would be giving humanity ? They might be giving a mountain but what good comes from looking into the sky ? What good has Astronomy given “Humanity” in the last 60 years ?

    • Small_Businessman

      I agree. I think the native Hawaiians deserve a fair return for the land. And if it can’t be worked out, then I think science should bow to religion. It was their sacred land long before astronomers took over. No one has any business taking it from them.

      • JWrenn

        But who should get it back? How far back are we going to go on the conquering thing? They say King Kamehameha united the islands, but he really conquered them…so should each island be it’s own kingdom? Does all the land go back to the kings, or to the original group of families that were given Ahupua’a?

        It just gets fuzzy. The Hawaiians found the land first so it is theirs, but they were not one people they were their own tribes, until they were conquered by other Hawaiians. So they lived by the sword…is it fair they lost their land by it?

        I wish the world were different, but we need to be fair on how everyone worked back then. Hawaiian’s were not separate from it. They were just as bad, just on a smaller scale.

  • rodmarcia

    What if they replaced one of the older telescopes with the TMT, so there wouldn’t be any more telescopes than there are now?

    • Greg Robert

      Hurray! I quite agree.

      Also theAnd built with phenomenal optics in such a pristine location, it will produce sharper pictures than even the Hubble Space Telescope.

      The article seemed to say that this would be the first telescope better than Hubble. Huh? If that were true why the heck are we building more landscopes for billion $? Send up another pair of improved Hubbles. Much more bang for the buck.

      I am referring to this statement:

  • EquusMtn

    Regarding the observatories, some observations (pun unavoidable):

    1. How exactly do the observatories interfere with the native religion? Whatever the religious significance of this mountaintop, is it really irreconcilable with the presence of the telescopes? Sorry, but I have a hard time believing that. It seems really too easy for anyone to make the claim that this or that activity, structure, or practice is inconsistent with their religion.

    2. Can’t a trust be set up for the benefit of all Hawaiians, to be funded by the beneficiaries of the telescope(s)?

    3. I have been there, and I have climbed many other mountains of similar elevation. And I’m an environmentalist. I still have a hard time seeing how another telescope up there would be significantly destructive to the ecosystem. And the idea of replacing one of the older telescopes with the new one should be seriously evaluated.

    4. Thinking out loud here, aren’t the Andes a better place to obtain the advantages of high altitude telescopy? Closer to (or right on) the equator, so you have access to the entire sky, and altitudes significantly higher. And at least some sections significantly drier.

    • Small_Businessman

      1. I can’t speak for the Hawaiians, but i would suspect that the observatories are violating sacred ground. And to any religion, sacred ground is sacred ground and should not be violated. If you are an American, would you, for instance, support putting an observatory on Arlington National Cemetery? I surely wouldn’t.

      2. As I indicated above, I would support a move to negotiate an agreement with the native Hawaiians. But it has to be something both parties can live with. The current $1/yr,. lease obviously is not equitable.

      3. I’ve also been there, but I’m not an ecologist. I don’t know how another telescope would affect the ecosystem. Rather than make judgments, I will leave that to the experts. As for replacing an existing telescope – which one? The last time I checked, all of them were heavily used.

      4. Yes, from first glance, the Andes may be a better location. However, there are a number of potential problems. First of all, just because it’s on the equator doesn’t mean it’s an ideal location. Sure, it has access to the full sky. But the closer you get to the horizon, the more atmosphere the telescope has to look through, making it less useful. The equator would not, for instance, be a good spot for viewing Polaris (but the North Pole would be idea).

      Another problem is access. Mauna Kea is easily accessible; most of the Andes are not. It would require building possibly hundreds of miles (depending on the peak) of roads to get equipment to the peak. And astronomers wouldn’t have anywhere to live within commuting distance – those would have to be built, also. And, of course there are political considerations – not everyone is real friendly with the United States.

      So while the Andes look at first to be a great location, further analysis shows it’s not as good as it seems.

      Just my opinion, of course :)

  • Laren Ganer

    ““It’s such a powerful way for Hawaiians to enter into this century,” Coleman said of the educational funds.”

    OUCH. Does he not realize how terribly patronizing and belittling that sounds? Because Hawaiians right now are totally stuck in the stone ages or something? UHhhhHHhh, no.

  • Heather Samuels

    Strangely enough, the only time I have seen Hawaiians go up there at all was to protest. If you want to see them “praying” you will find the religious locals in Christian churches, NOT in Mauna Kea. People on the mainland need to know that this has been fused from anger over trying to gain back sovereignty and an excuse to stick it to the mainland. The reasoning is completely bogus. It’s understandable why they are so angry as many (not all) tend to be on the lower income bracket than most who come over to live here. It is sad and there definitely is room for improvement. On the plus side, TMT is offering 1 million dollars to the STEM program for all Hawaiian students, $250K in scholarships and grants and many job opportunities.To stop this from being built is only offering a disservice to the people here. I hope it is built for the sake of the children who want to pursue an education that will lift them from poverty and in return help their family, friends and communities.

  • Overburdened_Planet

    Who’s complaining about the roads used to transport those telescopes up the mountain? Or the wires used to transport electricity?

    Science trumps religion.

    And believers want to get paid.

  • SayWhat?

    Well, I am just one small person on earth who, like most, have no real conception as to all possible realities; I believe in God, and it’s my prerogative. I also believe in the pursuit of knowledge, i.e. Science, and that too is my prerogative. One is for my brain, the other for my Spirit. One without the other, seems to me, can lead to all sorts of extremism. From the well known radical religious who murder in the name of God to the Scientific talking heads who ridicule in the name of “higher thinking”.

    The fact is that you can learn a lot from both sides. And to dismiss one or the other is to deny yourself half of the equation. If science is the road map then spirituality is the guide.

    It’s easy to ridicule – it’s also very child-like. When I see a scientific mind such as Neil deGrasse Tyson ridiculing religion, I realize that despite his extensive knowledge in science, in the vast scheme of things, he is little more than a spoiled, arrogant child who has dismissed religion as useless. When in fact, with the correct balance of morality and enlightenment, he would know what it means to be less condescending and lofty about something that he obviously knows little about.

    I guess I just don’t see an advanced race of beings, who would put humanity to shame scientifically, as the arrogant type. I see them more as a balanced, understanding, humble race of beings who see the value in all lines of thought. Not just the ones they like most.

  • LeslieFish

    Why doesn’t the U. simply pull down two of those smaller, older, outdated, earlier telescopes and put the new one on the land they occupied? 13 telescopes on one mountain is a wee bit excessive.

  • Joseph Stockton

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