THE SAGAN SERIES - A Reassuring Fable


Consider again that pale blue dot we've been talking about

Imagine that you take a good long look at it.

Imagine you are staring at the dot for any length of time

and then, try to convince yourself

that God created the whole universe

for one of the ten million or so species of life

that inhabit that speck of dust

Now take it a step further:

Imagine that everything was made just for a single shade of that species,

or gender,

or ethnic or religious subdivision.

We can recognize here a shortcoming

in some circumstances serious

in our ability to understand the world.

Characteristically, we seem compelled to project our own nature

onto Nature.

"Man in his arrogance

thinks himself a great work

worthy of the interposition of a deity,"

Darwin wrote telegraphically in his notebook.

"More humble

and I think truer

to consider him created from animals."

We're Johnny-come-latelies.

We live in the cosmic boondocks.

We emerged from microbes and muck.

Apes are our cousins.

Our thoughts and feelings are not fully under our own control.

And on top of all this,

we're making a mess of our planet

and becoming a danger to ourselves.

The trapdoor beneath our feet swings open.

We find ourselves in bottomless free fall.

If it takes a little myth and ritual

to get us through a night that seems endless,

who among us cannot sympathize and understand?

We long to be here for a purpose,

even though, despite much self-deception,

none is evident.

The significance of our lives and our fragile planet

is then determined only by our own wisdom and courage.

We are the custodians of life's meaning.

We long for a Parent to care for us,

to forgive us our errors,

to save us from our childish mistakes.

But knowledge is preferable to ignorance.

Better by far

to embrace the hard truth

than a reassuring fable.

Modern science has been a voyage into the unknown,

with a lesson in humility waiting at every stop.

Our commonsense intuitions can be mistaken.

Our preferences don't count.

We do not live in a privileged reference frame.

If we crave some cosmic purpose,

then let us find ourselves a worthy goal.