Podcast: More core conviction/Back (to 2009) to the future... Why we don't share
W 2/Th 3 - READ TIB II Intro, & find/share another essay you like on the TIB website and post a comment briefly telling us why; WATCH: Pale Blue Dot (Sagan); LISTEN: Why Exploration Still Matters (Tyson).
1. What question is more important than what you think of a given TIB essay?
2. In the aggregate, TIB essays are a celebration of what?
3. What subjects are young TIB contributors more likely to write of?
4. Why has TIB become popular among educators? (Or, what can young people encounter through these essays?)
5. Rivers of blood have been spilled by generals and emperors so they could become what, says Sagain?
6. What does the distant image of earth taken by Voyager underscore, according to Sagan?
In your discussion group today, take turns briefly describing one of your favorite TIB essays and what you like about it. Listen, then discuss.
Do you agree with Sagan's conviction that really seeing the earth as a tiny "mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam" should make us kinder, more tolerant and civil, and less violent? Would a renewed commitment to space exploration have that effect? What do you think of Neil deGrasse Tyson's view on this? - Why America needs to explore space... Dreaming Big (YouT)... Why Exploration Still Matters
A Pale Blue Dot
Look again at that dot. That's here. That's home. That's us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every "superstar," every "supreme leader," every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there--on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.The Earth is a very small stage in a vast cosmic arena. Think of the rivers of blood spilled by all those generals and emperors so that, in glory and triumph, they could become the momentary masters of a fraction of a dot. Think of the endless cruelties visited by the inhabitants of one corner of this pixel on the scarcely distinguishable inhabitants of some other corner, how frequent their misunderstandings, how eager they are to kill one another, how fervent their hatreds.Our posturings, our imagined self-importance, the delusion that we have some privileged position in the Universe, are challenged by this point of pale light. Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. In our obscurity, in all this vastness, there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves.The Earth is the only world known so far to harbor life. There is nowhere else, at least in the near future, to which our species could migrate. Visit, yes. Settle, not yet. Like it or not, for the moment the Earth is where we make our stand.It has been said that astronomy is a humbling and character-building experience. There is perhaps no better demonstration of the folly of human conceits than this distant image of our tiny world. To me, it underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly with one another, and to preserve and cherish the pale blue dot, the only home we've ever known.-- Carl Sagan, Pale Blue Dot, 1994
I believe that humans have a bright future among the stars.
A 12-year old boy might have been excused, on July 20, 1969, for picturing the world of 2009 as far closer to Captain Kirk’s than this.
The “space race” had been run and won in a few focused frenetic years, from Sputnik in the year of his birth, to JFK’s “we choose to go to the moon” speech, to “one small step.” We’d slipped Earth’s pull with unprecedented energy and elan. Where did we want to go today, and tomorrow? We were surfing space then, not just cyberspace.
And although Neil and Buzz were compelled by their governmet to plant and salute Old Glory, we were the world. ”We came in peace for all mankind.” Our collective confidence was higher than the sky. Future visions were bright, even utopian.
Fast-forward forty years.
The man that boy became might be excused again, today, for deriding his own youthful optimism as laughably, pitiably naive. Not only have we failed “to boldly go” to the planets and stars, we actually seem to have gone backwards. We’ve certainly not curtailed the ancient human proclivity to suicidal, homicidal, fratricidal, genocidal violence. We’ve made a greater muddle of our economic and political institutions. Diseases, hatred, and ancient hostilities rage worse than ever.
I excuse them both, the boy and the man. I excuse myself for my continuing ambivalence. Of course I am that boy, and that man. I am now a professor of philosophy, and a father. I want my students and my children to live full, happy, hopeful lives. I want them not to be disillusioned, forty years from now.
Would it be better, then, to lower their expectations? Should I teach them to live without dreams of an expansive future?
I say no, with a dash of Thoreau: “If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put the foundations under them.” Some of our castles should be out among the stars.
Odds still favor the eventual arrival of some version or other of Tomorrowland, albeit on a timetable no one can foretell, and with environmental complications we were mostly blind to, in ‘69. When it comes there will be conflicts and troubles not now on anyone’s radar. But it likely won’t be Neverland.
The philosopher William James said “the really vital question for us all is, What is this world going to be? What is life eventually to make of itself?”
I believe life is going back to the stars whence it came, boldly and beautifully.