The Pale Blue Dot and the Human Condition.

April 9, 2007 by aaron

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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