Dr Sanity writes a US-based blog that provides psychological insights into defence mechanisms such as denial. Denial and other fallacies underpin many arguments and behaviours, especially those seen from the anti-Israel brigade. We link to her site on the right.
A while ago, she had a compelling entry where she described her experiences as the flight surgeon responsible for the crew of the Challenger spacecraft, and how she comforted the families afterwards. The Challenger disaster was one of those events where many remember exactly where we were when we heard the news. The tortured search for the truth as to who and what caused the disaster followed. While the process was imperfect, the follow-up investigations nonetheless took place as a credit to the US.
The follow-up letters to the blog item, from both NASA insiders and lay people are also very insightful. The expression one writer used “institutional denial and how it worms its way into dead-on complacency” is a reminder of what, for Israel, was perhaps its greatest institutional disaster – the failure to anticipate the Yom Kippur war of 1973. One can only wonder in awe at the ability of the Israeli soldiers who miraculously fought back to achieve victory. Israel also laid bare and learned from its Yom Kippur failures through the Agranot Commission.
The Challenger disaster also brings to mind Ilan Ramon, whose life tragically ended on the Columbia. Ramon’s inspiring life story is described here and in the Israeli Science and Technology Homepage. A memorable exhibition about Ramon was presented at the National Museum of Science in Haifa, which is well worth a visit.