Sunday, February 15, 2015

Pale blue dot

Some atheists believe in human rights, although they increasingly exclude certain classes (e.g. babies, the senile, the developmentally disabled). They wish to believe that humans have value. 

However, consider this famous statement by Carl Sagan–which is representative of the secular outlook. How can human life have any intrinsic worth given his description? Sure, some humans can be valued by other humans–just like some people cherish diamond rings or celebrity memorabilia (e.g. Elvis Presley's used sweatbands). But that's projecting value onto intrinsically worthless objects. It's a recipe for moral and existential nihilism: 

Look again at that dot. That's here. That's home. That's us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every "superstar," every "supreme leader," every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there--on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam. 
The Earth is a very small stage in a vast cosmic arena. Think of the rivers of blood spilled by all those generals and emperors so that, in glory and triumph, they could become the momentary masters of a fraction of a dot. Think of the endless cruelties visited by the inhabitants of one corner of this pixel on the scarcely distinguishable inhabitants of some other corner, how frequent their misunderstandings, how eager they are to kill one another, how fervent their hatreds. 
Our posturings, our imagined self-importance, the delusion that we have some privileged position in the Universe, are challenged by this point of pale light. Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. In our obscurity, in all this vastness, there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves.

1 comment:

  1. Well, there's a certain sense in which Sagan has nailed it.

    If the dead are not raised, “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die.” 1 Cor. 15:32b