We’ve been to the moon!

August 27, 2007 at 7:53 pm | Posted in Al Gore, America, astronomy, Bush, conservatism, culture, education, internet, personal, politics, religion, religious right, revolution, society, technology, terrorism, world | 2 Comments

These are the words of my Humanities instructor from today’s lecture:

“We’ve been to the moon! Think about it! Think about how incredible that is!”

It is incredible…but you really have to stop and think about it.

Tonight (or tomorrow morning) many of us we’ll get to watch a full lunar eclipse. Not just our ancient ancestors, but even our recent ancestors would not have even dreamed of the things that are possible today when they looked up at the same moon and marveled at the same events which will unfold before us in the wee hours of the morning.

Science and technology is responsible for deploying spacecraft to Mars, Venus, Saturn, and beyond the edge of our solar system. The Hubble Space Telescope captures startling and magnificent images from billions of light years away that essentially allow us to peer back in time. Right now we scoff at the idea of traveling much farther than our own moon or Mars, but respected scientists from less than a hundred years ago would arguably be surprised to learn that the United States of America has erected a flag on the moon — and that was almost 40 years ago!

Last Friday I attended what I consider to be the best Humanities lecture that I have ever been to. There were three lecturers, the first of which just happened to be my professor. He briefly detailed the “Scientific Revolution”, providing just enough information for a science enthusiast such as myself to remember why he went back to school in the first place.


The second “lecturer” spoke for at most 3 minutes. At the beginning of the lecture, half-way through, and at the end he played Bach and Haydn on a grand piano center-stage. What an incredible sound and a profound experience. Unlike many others I know, I’ve never had the pleasure of listening to a live performance of any classical or arranged “piece”. That afternoon is something that I will not soon forget.

The third and final lecturer introduced our young minds to what is referred to as “The Enlightenment”. Here, once again, we were teased with tidbits of information and history that gently remind us why we are all attending “University” and at that, a liberal arts university.

So what’s all this mean to a techie, blogging, student, IT professional such as myself? Well, for one thing, it brings a great deal of perspective and understanding to the rapidly changing world we live in today. Right now, science and technology are pushing the human limits of tolerance for change. Every time any of us turn around there is something new that we might enjoy, something new we have to learn, or occasionally, something new that we just couldn’t live without and don’t understand how we ever did (think TiVo).

I’m about halfway through Al Gore’s The Assault on Reason. Reason, my professor insists, is what differentiated the thought process of the Medieval and Renaissance cultures (think, also, Christianity) and the modern world (science). Here’s a quote from Al Gore’s book about reason and today’s culture:

“To brace themselves and their families against disturbing and disorienting change, people instinctively reach for the strongest tree they can find — which is often the one that seems to have the deepest roots. As people cling ever more firmly to their religious traditions, they can become more vulnerable to ideas and influences that reason might filter out in less fearful times.”

Do we live in fearful times? Has the current administration and our leaders created a climate of fear that has people running to the deepest roots they can find?

Turning back to the modern world, can you compare the climate of fear and change of today’s world with what must have been going on back then? For hundreds, heck thousands of years, civilizations and societies were founded and wrought out by rulers, kings, queens, or otherwise that dictated what the larger population should believe and how they should behave.

The notion of individuality was radical then; to what extremes are we pushing those ideas and philosophies today? My generation and those younger than me seem to be exploring a new means of expressing individuality — blogs, YouTube, PodCasts, Twitter, Pownce, MySpace, Facebook, Virb the list is endless! For some, you don’t just have to be yourself, you can have multiple personalities (and I don’t mean that in the psychological sense, but rather, the Web 2.0 sense).

Before I get carried away, let me just sum it all up by saying, or rather, emphasizing how exciting it is to be a part of something — and that something can be different for every individual. I think that the transition to the modern world was key to the fast-pace, rapid intellectual evolution that we are all undergoing today.

I have to wonder why some insist on holding on to the ideas and philosophies of the past that have outlived their purpose, but Gore’s words reassure me that this is just another component to change. America’s resurgence of religious fervor is nothing more than a symptom of change. Galileo was placed on house arrest for his ideas and philosophies. Copernicus was similarly blacklisted by Rome for his revolutionary teachings and writings. Is it really any surprise to see the American religious right or Islamic fundamentalists rise up against the tidal wave of social and technological change that we are all witnessing today?

I think not. In fact, if you afford any truth to the principle of proportions, we’re in for a much more bumpy ride than that of our predecessors. Today’s rate of change out-paces anything experienced so far in this history of humankind.

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2 Comments »

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  1. Justin,
    Sometimes we ‘cling’ to those things (religion for lack of a better word) in our lives that have brought us comfort in the past not because we fear change, but rather, in the test of time, have found them comforting and reassuring in times of distress.

    Do I fear change? No. I am the biggest fan of technology you will find, but I know there are and should be limits to what technology can do.

  2. Thanks for the comment Bill. I guess when I talked about fear, I was referring to the fear that has been part of our political climate for the past couple of years. I was trying to avoid using the buzzword of terrorism, but now there it is. If we’re no longer safe in America and in the world (or at least are lead to believe that, even irrationally at times), yes people will turn to those things which bring comfort and reassurance. Things other than religion that might bring this comfort and reassurance is a leader who appears to be strong-willed and decisive, when in reality his actions are often blind, ignorant, or just plain stupid.

    I, like you, am a big fan of technology. But I argue that the advancements in technology over the past 100 years have occurred at a dizzying pace. A pace that I believe will continue to have ripple effects on the world and society that we can only begin to speculate on.

    Looking back at the history of the world, any keen observer should be able to deduce that the changes we are undergoing now rival the major societal and social changes of the past. Countless wars have been fought for all kinds of reasons, many of which changed the course of time and human progress.

    Isn’t it neat to ponder how our brief “blip” on the unfathomable time-scale of the Universe (billions of years) might effect or influence the future? Just think, we have the ability and the knowledge to literally destroy the planet Earth. What would our ancient ancestors think of our military capabilities, technological advances, and our evolved social interactions? Would they even recognize us as being human?

    Just some BIG thoughts to ponder… 🙂


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