Monday, December 20, 2010

Video - Consider Again That Pale Blue Dot

I've said this before, but one of my favorite images is the famous "Pale Blue Dot" picture of Earth. This second video in callumCGLP's (Callum Sutherland) tribute series to Carl Sagan revisits the image that Sagan first so eloquently spoke about in his Cosmos series. In this video, Sagan deconstructs humanity's narcissism, comparing the inflated opinion of our position in the universe promulgated by humans through the millennia, backed by tradition and embedded in our faiths to the truth revealed by the image of the Earth, small and insignificant, floating alone in space.

As Sagan points out, there are more stars in the universe than grains of sand on all the beaches of all the world. He predicted that there would be worlds surrounding many of them, and subsequent investigation has confirmed this. As he made this prediction before his death in 1996, he had no way of knowing that planets would turn out to be not just common, but extraordinarily so. And he predicted that many of those planets would contain life. As he states in this video, humans have had a self-absorbed myopia that has caused us to accord ourselves a special place in the universe - a notion that has only recently be set aside by those willing to accept the scientific evidence of our inconsequentiality. One wonders, on those countless planets, how often life has evolved and developed intelligence, and when it has, do they engage in the same self-absorbed foolishness? Do they consider the universe to be the special creation made just for their benefit? Are all intelligent races as petty and small as we, or is this a uniquely human failing? Would it be more comforting to find that we are not alone in this foolishness, or that other intelligences are wiser than we? I don't know. Unless and until we actually communicate with an alien intelligence, we will never know.

Previous video in the series: A Universe Not Made For Us.
Subsequent video in the series: Wanderers.

1 comment:

  1. Very good points about humanity's myopia regarding extraterrestrial life. What I find interesting is the depiction of aliens in books and movies; so often they are bipedal and communicate through sounds like humans do, which is as myopic as the idea that we are alone in the universe.

    We superimpose the known on the unknown because that's all we know how to do. But what amazing things we could dream up if we weren't hampered by our own expectations.