A Candle in the Dark

A look on science, politics, religion and events

The voice of reason

with 2 comments

Imagine that our planet is under the threat of complete annihilation, for whatever reason, by a more advanced intelligent race. If there’s one person, one individual we can send to plead the case for earth’s survival, that representative for earth would have to be the astronomer, Carl Sagan. I’ll never forget the day when I first came across his work, The Demon-Haunted World 1. Sagan’s passion and enthusiasm for science and humanity is truly inspiring and infectious.

Sagan has written some truly brilliant 2 popular science books. If you’ve not read them yet, I strongly suggest that you do. Among his more popular science books, which I’ve absolutely enjoyed, are Cosmos, Broca’s Brain, The Dragons of Eden and Billions and Billions.

This is a video where Carl Sagan talks about the famous Pale Blue Dot photograph 3, that the Voyager 1 spacecraft took. I can’t find adequate words to describe the feeling of awe, beauty and humility that Sagan conveys, so I’ll let you experience it for yourself.

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.

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… Like it or not, for the moment the Earth is where we make our stand.
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… Like it or not, for the moment the Earth is where we make our stand.

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. It is up to us. It’s been said that astronomy is a humbling, and, I might add, a character-building experience. To my mind, 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 and compassionately with one another and to preserve and cherish that pale blue dot, the only home we’ve ever known.

From one of the greatest humans who has ever lived.

Notes

[1] – The more perceptive of you would have noticed that the name of this blog comes from the same book (The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark). No coincidence. In fact, Sagan himself was referring to the British physician Thomas Ady, who bravely wrote a treatise against the Salem witch trials.
[2] – That’s a poor adjective. I’d probably run out of superlatives if I try to express just how good they are. So, if you’ve not read any of his works yet, what are you waiting for?
[3] – From his essay, Reflections on a Mote of Dust.

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Written by parseval

April 22, 2007 at 11:15 am

Posted in people, science

2 Responses

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  1. BRILLIANT! The essay was SUPERB!!!

    “of the endless cruelties visited by the inhabitants of one corner of this pixel on the scarcely distinguishable inhabitants of some other corner” !!!!!!

    WOW! AMAZING!

    Mohan K.V

    April 27, 2007 at 7:13 am

  2. Reading this has just left me in tears.

    Aditya

    July 4, 2007 at 10:03 pm


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