One school of science admonishes human society to humble itself in the knowledge that all of us are mere ants in a sandbox the size of Earth, afloat in a heaven containing separate worlds that far outnumber the grains of sands on our own little planet. That instead of being the individual components in a grand design, we are the accidental product of molecular-level incidents that theoretically instigated the process of cellular evolution and life itself.
Maybe they’re right. Maybe they’re wrong.
It is, after all, a matter of perception. Common knowledge and religion once dictated that Earth was the center of the universe.
Flash forward a few hundred years – technological advances now allow exploration of the heavens that isn’t limited to grounded instrumentation or observation – we now know our sun is the center of a single universe among an infinite number of others. Now what?
What do we do with this knowledge? Do we acquiesce to scientists’ recommendations and embrace their speculations, thereby trivializing the importance of our existence? Do we bow to the theories of natural selection and survival of the fittest and minimize the sanctity of life?
The science of space and the myriad discoveries we have uncovered have raised more questions than they have answered. And space exploration costs a lot of money.
Last week, NASA officials contemplated the agency’s future priorities as it struggles with mission setbacks due to government cutbacks – where to go, where to go?
But nobody’s asking the really important question: Why do we want to go there?
Are we searching for worlds that could sustain human life because we are on the brink of decimating our own?
We really don’t have a good track record of taking care of those around us on this planet.
Companies in one-half of the world rob the resources from developing countries where citizens survive on $2 a day. We are content to bulldoze food-bearing trees in favor of cementing over fertile ground. People packing weapons roam the streets, searching for targets to assuage their anger.
Have we lost all faith in the value of our existence?
I am not trying to diminish the capacity of our minds or curtail exploration beyond Earth’s terrestrial boundaries. I am merely suggesting that there is much here on this planet and within each self that deserves the priority of closer examination.
Several months ago, I took a midnight walk on a cold, crisp and clear evening. The stars were so bright and sparkled with such intensity that I felt awe for the panorama of beauty above me – and I was a part of that beauty because I had the ability to appreciate it.
And in that moment, with all those lights and the hugeness of the sky, I didn’t feel small at all. Rather, I was blessed with the knowledge that I had a very special seat right here on Earth that night. It is, after all, a matter of perception.