Chet Raymo: Saying Yes to the Universe

From today’s post at Chet Raymo’s Science Musings blog:

If the Hubble Ultra Deep Field Photo whispers anything in our ear, it is that the neolithic myths so many of us live by are hopelessly out-of-date. We need new, more capacious stories commensurate with the stunning achievements of human knowing. We need theologies that consist of more than projections of human qualities onto a mystery that burns like a hidden flame in the “ten thousand times ten thousand boxes of salt.” When I tried to convey some sense of cosmic scale, my students sometimes said to me, “It makes me feel so insignificant.” My reply: You are part of a species who flung a magnificent instrument into space and managed to keep it pointed at a tiny dot of sky for 11.3 days as the instrument whirled around the Earth. You made visible 130 billion galaxies. You carry a universe of 130 billion galaxies in your head. If that doesn’t make you feel significant, nothing will.

The Hubble Ultra Deep Field Photo is an extraordinary step in human knowing. And, ironically, it confirms our ultimate ignorance. We are blown and stirred and battered by a wind of galaxies that rushes outwards from a deeply mysterious beginning, We are the stuff of it. Every atom in our body vibrates with the tempo of it. We let go of our ancient moorings and swim in the sea of it.

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