http://www.nyti…

Effectively Alone in the Universe

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/07/25/opinion/alone-in-the-void.html?_r=2

I wish more people understood what this guy is talking about. There is a lot of focus on “progress” and such, many people forget that as far as the long run goes the human race isn’t helping itself with increased population and whatnot. Many people think science could “rescue” us, but the bottom line is Earth is the only planet we will ever have.

It makes me much more humbled when studying astronomy and looking at the stars after knowing just how far away and unreachable they are.

Full Map of the Milky Way

http://djer.roe.ac.uk/vsa/vvv/iipmooviewer-2.0-beta/vvvgps5.html

I stumbled upon this a couple of months ago, and it really helped me understand the scale of the Milky Way. On the top right you can see what percentage of the galaxy your view is taking up. The amount of stars in the galaxy is inconceivable. And to think that there is an entire galaxy for every star in the Milky Way, probably even more than one.

And then one remembers that Earth itself is a very small rock orbiting just one star. It amazes me that we use microscopes to study the same physics that also governs things on that scale. As in, you have to use a microscope to know enough to understand your observations of the Milky Way.

Looking at things like this make me excited for the James Webb telescope, which will hopefully give us more accurate assessments of the galaxy and universe.

Science as Religion: History Repeating Itself

As science advances beyond the cognitive understanding capability of the average American, the situation becomes reminiscient of the Roman Empire in Late Antiquity; scientists become more zealous in the “Truth” of their findings in reaction to fundamentalist religion rising up in protest to unconventional findings. The theory of evolution is as controversial to Christians now as the theory of earth going around the Sun was to them for over 1000 years. Just as Christians rose up against Galileo, they rise up against scientists now. The Catholic Church may have (somewhat) found its way, but fundamentalist Christianity has (just like many anti-objectivity religions before them) risen to fill the  gap of ignorant religious zealots opposing knowledge.

I was raised in a very conservative fundamentalist Christian environment, and I can assert with utmost confidence that their entire religion (a mere offshoot of “Christianity”) is founded upon a culture of ignorance. I didn’t believe in evolution simply because I did not understand it. Any scientific theory sounds absurd if it is presented in a ridiculous context or in a ridiculous way.

Their fear of science, however, is understandable considering the context. These people hug their Bibles as the last shred of hope, believing that if Science (in their minds it has a capital “S” because it is diabolically opposed to their own capital-letter beliefs) replaces Religion in the sphere of knowledge, it will eventually replace it in the sphere of Morality as well. But, as we all know, the morality put forth by science doesn’t exist, as science makes no  claim about morality.

The primitive people who created these religions lived in a world where objective knowledge and subjective moral judgments were not yet separated. Their followers, thousands of years later, still believe that to question dogmatists in the former area means to also deny them in the latter. I am openly opposed to any form of organized religion, I hold that Christianity and Islam make people sick by distorting their view of themselves and the world. I remember spending many nights as a child praying for God to forgive me for my sins so that I do not go to hell. I wish somebody had been there to tell me that “hell” does not exist, Christian “sin” is not the moral compass of an imaginary personable Creator of the Universe, and so on an so forth. Not even the famous Exodus of the Jews from Egypt happened in reality.

I do not believe that true religion and true science should ever have to come in conflict with one another. True religion should deal only with the metaphysical, only with the value judgments of the mind that science could never touch. Religious people who think that their Bible has anything to say about empirical, scientific reality are misguided; when one studies the history, they can see that the men who wrote the books of the Bible were not scientists, and they were not trying to convey a message even related to science. To take Genesis entirely out of context and say that it is commenting on the absurdity of Evolution, not providing a poetic story to convey a moral truth, is to be ignorant of the sources of one’s own religion. Unlike (modern) Catholics, Fundamentalists are ignorant of this.

However, scientists should not turn around and see their science as a religion. This entire militant “new atheist” movement is as misguided as the Fundamentalists they oppose. To believe that Science can present some ultimate “truth” to the universe, to believe that it can provide an explanation of the mystery of Being that satisfies the deepest wonders of the human soul…. these things lie outside the bounds of science, which is why Religion came before it. That “Truth” with a capital “T”, that “explanation”, that mystical “universal theory” means the same thing to some scientists that God means to the believer. Scientists should hold that science is separate from and need not have anything to do with religion or subjective moral judgments, not that it can replace them (the  catch is that scientific discoveries can be used unjustly, so creating a super-virus isn’t exactly moral neutrality).

To claim that science supersedes religion, overcomes and dominates the sphere of human existence that religion addresses, is as erroneous as to claim that religion overrides the sphere of science. While I am opposed to any and all forms of organized religion based on a culture of ignorance, I am also circumspect of these misguided scientists that have turned Logic into God in an effort to fight back.

Introduction

My name is Logan Vescio, a Government student from Claremont McKenna College’s class of 2014. I’m a Government major because I was always interested in the deepest subjects growing up; I settled with political philosophy because it encompasses many of the fundamental questions regarding the human condition. To build a polity from the ground up, you need to understand a vast array of things from many different subjects, from religion to economics to power structures. I would have gone into philosophy, but many “philosophers” nowadays are mere logicians and rhetoricians. 

Astronomy was a hobby (obsession) of mine from about 3rd grade to the day I left for college, hence why I chose it as my science GE. I was always fascinated by astronomy because I had the notion that it provides perspective regarding our “place” in the universe. To know that you are vastly larger than an atom but pathetically tiny compared to a (mere) star can change the way you look at many of your day-to-day problems.

Macro-scale cosmology is what I am most interested in regarding Astronomy. Before I discovered philosophy, I looked to cosmology for information on my deepest questions about life. Cosmology and philosophy ought to be more intertwined; when philosophizing about the Eternal (Kierkegaard) or Forms (Plato), cosmology matters in that it can provide a scientific analysis of certain aspects of those claims. For example, the fact that time and space are intertwined (not independent forms), indeed everything is intertwined (reminds me of Buddhist philosophy), or the fact that the Heat Death of the universe appears all but inevitable and will happen in 100 trillion years maximum.

So many scientists in news articles talk about human “immortality” upon ending the aging process. Immortality is living forever. But even if you ended aging indefinitely, cosmology could tell you that living for over 100 trillion years is still a rather unlikely prospect because you would run out of the usable energy that is required to think. All I’m saying is, these end-of-aging advocates might stop using the word “immortal” and instead say “very very long lifespan” if they took an Astronomy course.

Studying cosmology since an early age has thus granted me perspective on many things that at first seem unrelated to it.

My ultimate aspiration is to be a political philosophy professor, should that fail I wish to become an author or journalist, and should that fail I’ll probably go into law (disgusting I know).