To See The Stars, To Know One’s Mind

I’m normally a pessimist regarding global warming, the depredations of the human race, and the big issues. And with justification, I think. Civilization is coming to an end because we screwed with the laws of physics and as a species we continue to demonstrate that we simply don’t understand the laws of physics and that they apply to us. So, civilization is over. Mass extinction is underway. Our intent, as a species, is to hasten it.

But this morning, while the sky was still dark, I went out on the porch and looked up. A bright planet to the east, I think Venus, sat like a jewel among the stars. So many stars, yet only a small fraction of what I could see if the lights of the town and the neighborhood were off. Even so. So many. So bright. So far. It was wondrous to look at them, to realize what they were, to understand how they got there, how they came to be, how they work. And equally wondrous to know that there is so much we don’t know about them, and how much we can learn.

That’s a feeling the religionists cannot have. To them their god made the stars and planets. Not for them the understanding of the subatomic processes that keep the stars glowing for billions of years. Not for them the incredible processes of a nova, a supernova, a stellar collapse. God did it. Religion, religious belief, god: those stunt the mind, weaken the intellect, narrow mental and emotional horizons, undermine the human species, and now, hasten life toward extinction.

Perhaps that is pessimistic, to think, to believe that most of life in this biosphere will soon disappear. On the other hand I’m not afraid of it, no more than I am afraid of my own death. Because I am an atheist the religionists tell me I will burn in eternal torment once I die, while they will go to some place of eternal bliss, such place usually described as one of the most inconceivably boring, dull, terrible places imaginable, where one’s whole being must spend eternity worshipping some hugely narcissistic being. I’ve always said that given the choice I’d take the torment because the really interesting people and interesting ideas would be found there. Religious people tend to be boring even in this life: apparently their idea of bliss is eternal boredom and enslavement to a narcissistic being, and their idea of hell is a ferment of ideas and questioning and seeking after facts and evidence and truths. They have much to fear, and much to torment themselves with.

I have none of that. I think it sad that we are so incompetent as a species that we are willing to destroy life on earth in order to satisfy the whims and stupidities and fears of our weakest minds, but I know that the laws of physics will operate no matter what we do. By understanding and following them, we might save the biosphere. Unfortunately, and in large part due to religious ignorance, willful ignorance it must be said, and human stupidity and greed and selfishness, we choose to ignore physics. Nonetheless I take comfort in the fact that the laws of physics do work, that they aren’t subject to the caprice of invisible beings, and that we can understand them. That knowledge gives me a sense of optimism, a sense that though we will extinguish most life, including our own, in time life will rise again on the planet, and it is to be hoped that it will be devoid of the flawed intelligence evolution gave us, intelligence that cursed the world.

As for the theists and the rest of the superstitious crowd, frankly I do hope they get to their heaven of eternal worship. I can think of no greater curse to call down on them while I drink my morning coffee and gaze at the stars.


5 Responses

  1. Yes. Good post. I agree. Some might say the inexorable progress of civilization simply leads to the inexorable destruction of that civilization. We become so “smart”, so in control of our environment, that we begin to think we are indestructible, when we are simply one equal cog with all the other cogs on the wheel. We think that even as we knock off cogs, the wheel will still turn with our lone, surviving cog. Such arrogance has not been met with success on a smaller lever (see Rome and all the other “advanced” civilizations) and it won’t be met with success now that humanity is effectively combined on a global scale, unless we change our attitudes towards each other and the earth we live on.

    But I think life will continue, even if we destroy our current environment. Life has a way of continuing. That genie is out of the bottle, and short of a total burnout of the sun, it will continue. And even after that, maybe somewhere else? Won’t affect me. I’ll be gone.


    • I agree, life will continue. But I believe it is quite reasonable to assume that humans won’t be part of it. We nearly went extinct 70,000 years ago when Tova blew. What’s developing around us now makes that event look trivial.


  2. “The Earth has cancer and the cancer is Man.” Club of Rome


    • Brief and to the point. Virus or plague would also do. 🙂 Though the first may be redundant.


      • Gosh, oh for the day they invent an irony “smiley”.

        I don’t subscribe to the Club Of Rome’s view. Mainly because I generally like humans.

        Sweeping generalisation warning; I find socialists/statists dislike humans and are therefore distrust them to any level of responsibly.

        I reckon everyone I’ve ever met would prefer not to live in a polluted environment but the ones that do don’t do it out of choice.

        I also suspect that humankind’s capability for inventiveness and ability to find a solution is far greater than we can imagine.

        Lastly, I cannot recall a single important solution to a real problem that was invented by or implemented by a government (let alone a consortium of governments).

        People are great, especially those dirt poor ones I often see on my visits to 3rd world countries. Tell the warmists to stop hating them, please.


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