The group of tourists is on the first commercial tourist trip to the moon. As they alight from their luxury space liner, a Hollywood celebrity spots a shiny nugget in the dust next to their designer moon boots. “Gold!” our celeb cries out with delight, “There must be jewellery stores here! We simply have to buy some lunar rings and necklaces to take back with us. The people back home will be green with envy.” The fellow travellers roll their eyes and wish they had taken the self-guided tour option.

Everyone (except our celeb) sees it as an obviously ridiculous conclusion. They instantly, almost intuitively, know that it requires infinitely more than the presence of gold to make a jewellery store. Property developers, agents, architects, builders, jewellery designers, artisans, managers, sales staff, miners, engineers, accountants—and numerous other people—applying their intelligence, aesthetic inspiration, training, skills, money and hard work all combine to produce a jewellery store. Not to mention more abstract requirements such as supply and demand, markets and advertising. In short, it requires a vast amount of intellectual capital that gold, steel and stone can never supply. While gold may be necessary to a jewellery store, it is by no means causative of such a facility. The moon could be strewn with gold and precious stones and it would not be one step closer to having jewellery stores without these other entities of personal intelligence and effort.

OK, so the story seems ridiculous; it’s hard to imagine anyone deducing the existence of jewellery shops from such a lunar find. But then, many otherwise sane and intelligent people have been drawing similarly farfetched conclusions, while thinking they are being ‘scientific’. Consider that over the last few decades billions of dollars have been spent on trying to discover whether the elements and conditions essential to sustain life exist anywhere else in our solar system or in the universe. There have been squeals of delight in the media whenever evidence for the existence of water or some other element necessary to sustain life has been discovered on a planet….

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