This is a passage from Carl Sagan, noted astronomer, commenting on the photo below, which is a view of the Earth from the Voyager spacecraft, four billion miles away (6.4 trillion kilometers, down with the cursed English system). It’s a beautiful description of man’s insignificance in the true sense of the cosmos.
From this distant vantage point, the Earth might not seem of particular interest. But for us, it’s different. 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.
For the more visually-oriented, a video:
On Video: Trial & Error and the God Complex
It seems so obvious when you listen to him, but it’s when you look around and see everyone trying to fix the world’s problems with their own preconceived master plans that you see how few people grasp the beautiful heuristic process of variation and selection.
On the Concorde
The Concorde. It’s a beauty; it’s just about the most beautiful man-made thing in the world. What a shame that it guzzled gas, made so much noise, and was eventually put out of service.
On the Opinion Entitlement Fallacy
The process of argumentation has, for me, always been a journey towards the discovery of truth. However, seldom does this process go well. People usually end up with more questions than answers and the matter is almost never resolved. One of the reasons is because of certain fallacies that just won’t die.