The Astonishing Arrogance of Humans……

1 Oct

Early philosophers surmised that the Earth was at the centre of the universe and not without good reasoning.  After all the ‘heavens’ appeared to rotate around us as if we were static.  There was an absence wind coming from one direction, which one might have expected had we been travelling on a constant course through space.  It was also thought that the lights coming from ‘heavens’ may have been placed at specific distances from the Earth on a set of concentric crystal spheres.  This anthropomorphic view also fitted in nicely with the main monotheistic religions which had established themselves as the absolute authority handed down by ‘god’ with mankind at the pinnacle of creation.

One often wonders if ancient philosophers hadn’t worked out some of the problems with this model far earlier than the evidence they left behind suggests, which would doubtless have been destroyed by the authority of the church, that is if they had been brave enough to have committed such reasoning to parchment for fear of reprisal and death.  We tend toward giving credit for the major steps forward in astronomy to the philosophers of the 14th century although many great works were produced, particularly in the Far East, long before this.

CopernicusIt was Nicolaus Copernicus, working with data meticulously collected by others, that first dared to suggest that the planets revolved around the Sun, later backed up by Tyhco Brahe who observed a supernovae, proving that the ‘heavens’ were not static, and the works of Kepler and Galileo.  In a little under one hundred years the view of the Catholic Church had been overturned, although it cost its detractors dearly, some paying with their lives, others effectively ending their careers.  It is worth taking a moment to contemplate that a little over 100 years ago the Milky Way was thought to be everything there was; our Universe.  100 years before that just the planets in our locality with everything else ‘painted’ upon a set of concentric crystal spheres.  Philosophers throughout history had questioned what would later be called the ‘weak anthropic principle’; the notion that we just happened to be inhabitants of the planet that sits so neatly in the centre of everything, with every other observable body circling around us.  This is obviously; the view our species, being the most important in ‘creation’, would, being placed at the centre of everything, would observe:  “What would see if were sitting on another planet?”  I’m sure ancient philosophers secretly wondered.

Having moved on in our acceptance of the Universe and our total insignificance in it, the human race still maintains an astoundingly arrogant opinion of ourselves.  For example; as Voyager leaves the Heliosheath, the point at which the solar wind is slowed by the pressure of interstellar gas, it is the furthest man made object from us, yet in universal measurements it is barely a stones throw from us.  It has yet to pass any of 3 or 4 hundred billion other stars in the Milky Way or to reach any of the other 3 or 4 hundred billion galaxies or pass any of the hundreds billions stars within them.  The chances of ‘intelligent’ life intercepting the Voyager probe are miniscule, but if they did, I have a vision of the instant mashed potato aliens falling all over the flight deck with laughter; “Those pesky humans again, wah, wah, wah!”.smash robots  NASA even changed the disc on the second Voyager to show the man and woman wearing clothes, should we leave ourselves open to embarrassment, or worse, the beings that discover it.  It is that one detail particularly that sets the scene for mankind.

pioneer10-plaque21Take yourself back to the 70’s, you’ve completed your PhD (after all it’s hardly rocket science), landed a dream job working for the worlds most prestigious space outfit, NASA, and you are a part of the steering committee that decides what to include on the gold disk.  Now, presuming some of the MIT or Caltech education sunk in, you’ll already have worked out that the chances of another ‘intelligent’ life form finding your probe is vanishingly small.  The distances involved are immense, your probe has a limited life span and by the time it reached another ‘intelligent’ species the human race will be as ancient to them as the Jurassic Period is to us now.  However, assuming all goes to plan and your probe is intercepted in the distant future they’ll be able to hang in their space museum with a little tag that reads ‘Extinct race from the Milky Way who were easily embarrassed’.  I need go no further in demonstrating the stupidly arrogant belief in ourselves.

We are the product of an unimaginably large set of coincidences.  Life may, in fact almost certainly will, have developed somewhere out there in the vastness of space.  In all probability evolution V1.2 will have produced something completely unrecognisable from us.  Any contact between us is vanishingly small due to the distances and time involved and either one of us will doubtless be extinct by the time our paths collide.  The whole UFO phenomena is just another example of our need to coexist and conspiracy theories apart, I think we would know if we were being ‘buzzed’ by an advanced civilisation, and what use would they have for us?  Technology?  Food?  A comfortable new home?  Again we apply our arrogant opinions to the problem.

We are a freak of nature and one hell bent on destroying our planet and its inhabitants.  Take a step back, apply logic and accept that we are for all practical purposes alone in the space-time we occupy.  Now we can back to the business of destroying things in the name of globalisation, religion and progress……

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