most rudimentary imagination. “Civilizationrnneeds big projects, the kind thatrnignite the mind and inspire the soul,” declaredrnone space booster, apparentlyrnmindful of the volumes of splendid lunarrnpoetry that have been published sincern1969. “For all its material advantages,rnthe sedentary life has left us edgy, unfulfilled,”rnwrote Sagan. To take the edgernoff, the restless masses are urged to turnrnon the TV and watch the fortimate onesrnfloat weightlessly in their capsules. Werncan be vicarious explorers —contributors,rntoo, every April 15! —to this magnificentrnventure, this grand expression ofrnthe human drive to explore. We gaze,rnstarstruck, as billions and billions of dollarsrnburn up upon re-entry.rnThis alleged American restlessnessrnmay define those who hold power but itrndoes not explain the lives of the millionsrnwho, unedgily, stay put. Most scientists,rnunlike most blue-collar workers, are willingrnto sacrifice place for career; recall thernincomprehension of Reaganites andrnneo-liberals when in the early 1980’srnlaid-off Rust Belt workers didn’t justrnmove to Arizona and learn computerrnprogramming. In a centralized state andrneconomy, the mobile rule the immobile.rnThe grocer)’-bagger pays for the physicsrnPh.D.’s education, his federally fundedrnresearch job, perhaps even the spacerncolony on which he will one day frolic.rnWe, the earthbound, can enjoy the stunningrnimages sent back by the planetarvrnprobes, but we know our place: on therncouch. City-dwellers can call up picturesrnof Mars on their computers, butrnthey can’t even see the red planet in thernnight sky, so bad the light pollution hasrnbecome.rnI write, by the way, as an astronomvrnbuff who believes that there is, indeed,rnmagic in the moon’s mild ray. The greatestrnamateur astronomer of our centuryrnwas a man named Leslie Peltier ofrnDelphos, Ohio. From his irative groundrnin western Ohio, Peltier commanded arnview of the universe. He didn’t need thernaerospace industry for “fulfillment”;rnMars was no farther than the telescope inrnhis backyard. But then he had a backyard,rnimlike the intrepid heroes of TRW.rnPeltier was from Delphos, which was notrnan insignificant dot on a speck in the cosmos,rnas the mobile men of science so oftenrntell the immobile payers of taxes, butrnthe center of his universe.rnIn his beautiful memoir StarlightrnNights (1965), Leslie Peltier wrote, “Irnknow that someday man will reach thernmoon but I sincerely hope this will notrnhappen for a long, long time…. If [man]rnmust conquer something let it be himself”rnThe word “conquest” is a favoriternof the spacemen. The conquest of space.rnThe conquest of the moon. The conquestrnof Mars. The conquest of the universe.rnLeslie Peltier concluded his bookrnby confessing, “The moon and I havernbeen firm friends all these many years.”rnDoes one conquer a friend? Just what onrnearth are we doing up there?rnBill Kaufftnan is the author, mostrnrecently, of With Good Intentions?rnReflections on the Myth of Progress inrnAmerica (Praeger).rnNew Bloodrnby John M. VellarnCatholic Converts: British andrnAmerican Intellectuals Turn to Romernby Patrick AllittrnIthaca: Cornell University’ Press;rn343 pp., $3S.OO’rnThe modern age has known manyrnfalse prophets who have challengedrnthe moral and spiritual beliefs of thernChristian faith. Although churchmenrnhave not always been vigilant in defensernof traditional religion, one institutionrnable to resist the secularizing trends ofrnthe 19th and 20th century has been thernCatholic Church. But it has not done so,rnas Patrick Allitt suggests, because of anrnoverabundance of intellectual creativityrnat its disposal. Indeed, the Church wasrnslow to ap]5roye new developments in thernnatural and social sciences, historical research,rnand biblical exegesis for fearrnthese new ideas might undermine religiousrnfaith. Yet, despite her resistance torninnovation, from 1800 to 1960 the RomanrnCatholic Church in E^ngland andrnAmerica attracted many gifted scholarsrnand writers from diverse backgroundsrnwho contributed enormously to the intellectualrnlife of the Church and to thernwider culture. Allitt, an Episcopalianrnwho teaches history at Emory Universit)’,rnargues that these men and women dominatedrnCatholic intellectual life and thatrntheir contributions to culture remainrnworthy of study.rnThese converts, as Allitt shows, becamernCatholics in the belief that thernChurch preached spiritual truths oftenrndenied by other religious communions.rnBeing Christians already, they werernchoosing the religious denominationrnmost faithful to the Gospel as they understoodrnit; many, observing the threatsrnto religious orthodoxy posed by secularrnliberalism, concluded that the CatholicrnChurch possessed the means to resistrnthese challenges, v’hile other religiousrnbodies did not.rnGiven the preference for neoscholasticismrnamong Catholic prelates, convertsrnwho were not attracted to this philosophicalrnschool contributed to other areas ofrnstudy: literature, history, and the socialrnsciences especially. A number of Britishrnconverts —including C.K. Chesterton,rnHugh Benson, and Ronald Knox—”triedrnto dazzle their readers with wit, erudition,rnand ostentatious orthodox)’.” Theirrnapproach, as Allitt points out, was to criticizernthe premises of non-Catholic philosophyrnand science, to show its epistemologicalrnweaknesses, and to reveal itsrnties to a callow idealization of progress.rnThey also used their Catholic insights tornenlighten contemporary political debates,rnmaking the case that, withoutrnthe guidance of faith, social chaos wouldrnengulf the world. World War 1 gave theirrncritique of progress new credibility inrnthe eves of a skeptical public weary ofrnCatholic claims. As Orestes Brownsonrntook up the cause against the cult ofrnprogress in America in the 19th century,rnso other converts have done in the 20th.rnFor many of them, “progress” meant thernrise of materialism, militant nationalism,rnand total war, and the} feared that b-rnturning away from Christ and thernChurch He founded, humanity was onrnthe patii of self-destruction.rnLiving through World War II and thernadent of the Cold War, many convertsrnbegan to question whether the moralrndecay of Western societ}- could ever bernhalted. Cradle Catholics saw the rise ofrncommunism and uniformly opposedrnit; so did the converts. Arnold Lunn,rnprominent Olympic gold medalist andrnauthor, wrote political commentary forrnNational Review while Ciiristopher Hollisrn(like Hugh Benson and Ronald Knox,rnan Anglican bishop’s son) became arnstaunch Conservative member of Parliament.rnBut they, and others, questionedrnwhether any means could prevent therndeterioration of religion and morality.rnlUNE 1998/39rnrnrn