Everyone has heard this by now: "How is it that we can put a man on the moon but not plug a hole in the ocean?" Or some variant thereof.
I am utterly tired of hearing this. Not only is it irrelevant but it is poorly phrased. This analogy calls out for a corrective response rather than an actual answer. My counter to this question is: "That is misguided. Indeed we can put a man on the moon--but if something were to go wrong with his ship, how likely would we be that we could save him? Or would we most likely find ourselves in a situation similar to the one we are in now involving the Gulf of Mexico. What both of these feats--getting to the moon, drilling a mile underwater--have in common is that they represent typically human endeavors of being able to reach or get to some metaphorical (or literal) great height and have no idea how to get down. Our technology mirrors our teleology--to expand, to go outward, to explore ever further. It does not grow at a cautious pace, but rather in clumsy steps, some more ambitious than others, and some leading to a trip or major fall. The point is that having the technology to get to the moon does not entail that we have the technology to deal with a prolonged or abnormal situation of any kind on the moon. Likewise, we have the technology to drill for oil in the deepest water, but that does not entail that we have the technology to deal with a prolonged or abnormal situation of any kind on the seabed."
Now, whether we should regulate ourselves so that technology grows at a more cautious pace, is another question entirely.