Dont get me wrong here i think the shuttle was a terrible tragedy but the hero worship thing is a bit much for me. Peoples argument on the hero astronaut issue seems to boil down to they risked thier lives for the advancement of human knowledge. While unarguable true, would there be the similar reaction if a tech working at Procter and Gamble had a kiln blow up in his face or something?
Really, that is a misdefinition of the term “hero.”
It does apply in that sense - someone noted for a special achievement - but is much more related to a brave, epic, and dangerous quest. Part of being the hero is the excitement involved in their situation, and the desire of people retelling their stories and being inspired to achieve similar feats…
No one reads a day in the life of a biologist ad P&G and leans back and daydreams about when they can do that. If they do, they are probably a biologist at a smaller company.
Is it fair? Eh, kinda. The “hero” tag goes along with danger and bravery more than selfless dedication to the betterment of humanity… though the term is changing meaning, as you imply.
In the strict sense…
Hero = astronaut
Hero = soldier, airman, etc
Hero = policeman
Hero = fireman
Hero = volunteer medic abroad
Hero != doctor doing cancer research
Hero != detective (unless you’re reading pulp novels
Hero != teacher (er, maybe in some parts of the country)
Hero != NASA technician
Personally, I think all of them kick ass and deserve equal recognition. Maybe “exemplar” is a better term for the non-daredevil heroes. It sounds smarter, anyway.
There’s really no factual answer here, so I’ll close this thread. The topic is being discussed on page 2 of this Pit thread: http://boards.straightdope.com/sdmb/showthread.php?s=&threadid=161147&pagenumber=2