The Pale Blue Dot and the Human Condition.

In February of 1990, Voyager 1 turned away from its primary mission and took a picture of the Earth from a distance of 6.4 billion kilometers (4 billion miles.) This picture featured the earth as a single small dot. A crumb on the surface of space, just lucky enough to rest inside one of many sunbeams many times its size. It demonstrated, graphically and irrefutably, what many people had believed for centuries: the earth is not special, and petty human conflicts were less important to the universe than an single ant’s life is to the earth.

Carl Sagan believed this wholeheartedly and this image inspired his book Pale Blue Dot. In response to this image he made the speech that is presented in the video in the next section. This video overlays Carl Sagan’s thoughts with images from movies that most people believe to represent themselves and their history. The power of the words combined with the visuals is stunning and well worth your time.

Okay, first of all I recognized almost everyone of those movies which is a little sad. But beyond that, Sagan’s introduction sets the pace for the rest of the address, and in doing so, steers the viewer into a mindset where they question their own existence before it complete lambastes the efforts of the human species–taking what many people believe to be the greatest accomplishments and showing what they really are: nothing. It forces you to consider, if the human species destroyed itself totally, who would miss us? Would anything or anyone really care? Has the universe actually lost anything?

If you look at this from a religious perspective you may say “yes” just because a god’s “most perfect” creations are now gone. However, take a second longer and really think about this. If a god created intelligent creatures once, what is to stop them from doing it again? Wow. That hurts the ego a bit.

If you look at this from a scientific, artistic or cultural point of view you will also probably say “yes”. You may argue that the universe just lost scientific advances–science is permanent, so anyone else could do it, the human cultures–which accomplished what exactly that is that impressive that it an never be done again, or its art–art by its very nature is impermanent anyway.

So this issue goes beyond who created whom and when it happen. It reaches to the very core of human existence and says “you should have done better.” Now each of us has a choice: we can sit here in our relatively comfortable lives and do nothing, or we can do something. I don’t mean we go and pick up liter and save kittens they are both impermanent and rather pointless in the long run. However, what we can do is teach people, our children, and ourselves the “correct” way to live, and I guarantee you it has nothing to do with nationalism, money, or cultural egotism.

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  • Aaron

    Even a blind person can tell if a wire is straight or crooked: they may not be able to see it directly, but they can feel that it just isn’t right, and they can then manipulate it until it is almost perfectly straight.

    Similarly, people may not be able to see exactly what the “correct” way to live is, but they can tell what is wrong with the human species, and if they fix the problems they know of, then they are that much closer.

  • Truden

    what we can do is teach people, our children, and ourselves the “correct” way to live

    If you (and all people) were taught the “correct” way, the earth wouldn’t have the problems it has.
    But if you (and all people) weren’t taught the “correct” way, how would you know to teach the others on something better?

  • GHH
  • cooper

    It’s a great vid I posted it at my Darfur blog some time ago.

  • Aaron

    I’m watching it now, thank you for the link.

  • Truden

    It is a good metaphor you give here.
    There is no need to metaphorize in order to explain something very simple:
    We all know that our problems come from the lack of Love.
    (We do not love each other with the true forgiving Love)

    Can you teach one how to truly (unconditionally) Love people.
    Do you have that Love?
    Can you give it to somebody else?

    Note: I posted the above and it didn’t appear in the comments.
    Then I posted it again, but it showed message that I’m posting duplicate comment.
    Probably some problem with the DB…

  • Aaron

    I just installed Spam Karma because some weird spam messages were getting through Askimet, and it still needs to learn how to do stuff.

    I don’t think love is required, I can be kind and understanding to random people without having to love them.

  • Aaron

    Kindness was only a response to your declaration of the supremacy of love, and in general I think boiling it down to “kindness” makes the argument weak and on par with kindergarten logic.

    I can be a complete ass and still make the world a better place–it is harder, but doable.

  • Truden

    Yes, you can be kind even to your enemy and having kind conversation while in war with him.
    Kindness does not help here.

    And here is your weak point: If you teach the others to be kind with each other (this is what we were taught), you don’t change anything.

    The world came to this point with man’s kindness and good intentions.

  • Truden

    He-he :D
    Then let’s hope that the assholes will fix up the world…
    Well… I mean the kind assholes.

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  • Alex

    We’d probably be doing the Universe a favor if the human race went extinct. Hopefully, intelligent life that is actually intelligent would develop elsewhere. ;)
    I used to think it would be tragic to lose all that humans have accomplished, but all that we’ve “accomplished” we only see as accomplishments as a result of our nature. There is no objective value in anything humans have ever done.

  • anaokulu

    Very nice great article thank you…