Friday, 16 November 2007

We are a way for the cosmos to know itself

I recently heard that someone I know has a problem with astronomy. Apparently, they find that the vastness of the universe causes a feeling of insignificance; that, in turn, is identified as a depressing notion, and thus it is concluded that astronomy is best avoided.
Just in case you haven’t been able to figure it up by now, I totally disagree. Here goes the explanation…
I don’t think there’s much contention about the issue our place in the universe, unless you’re into religion and stuff. In the grand scheme of things, and as astronomy shows the grand scheme of things is way too grand for us even to comprehend, we are a spec of dust in the corner. Not only that, but there is no real point to us being here other than to act as a replicator, a survival machine (to quote Dawkins) to our genes. We are here to make sure that certain sophisticated molecules, our genes, truly become immortal coils. Pathetic, isn’t it? A disgrace to any being with half an intelligence?
Well, no.
The question of the meaning of life will only bother us if we make it bother us. I don’t care much about my genes, but I do see a lot of things around me that I care about and which make life worth living. There are so many goals a human can set his/her mind to, so many noble things to achieve and experience, why should I care that I was conceived as a servant to my genes? Personally, I don’t how a small and flat universe or how huge universe would affect the things I do in life in any way. A rainbow remains beautiful and poetry is just as boring (I know I should have said poetry "stirs the soul" or something similar, but I do find poetry boring)..
At its core, the question is what do we make with this life that has been given to us. I don’t think we should think ourselves insignificant; I think we should understand our place in the universe instead. Astronomy comes very helpful there, because it is clear that the vast majority of space out there is devoid of life. Just think how lucky you are to be you and to be alive! Think of the statistics: just as the universe is grand, so your chances of being born are small. But you were born, and you’re here!
Think about it the way Carl Sagan put it. We are the eyes with which the universe sees itself. The blackest hole, the biggest bang – what good are they if there is no one around to admire them?

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