Yeah, that's right, you heard (read) me. Let's start with two Carl Sagan quotes, as food for thought.
"For me, it is far better to grasp the Universe as it really is than to persist in delusion, however satisfying and reassuring."
"If we long to believe that the stars rise and set for us, that we are the reason there is a Universe, does science do us a disservice in deflating our conceits?"
What I always loved about Sagan was that link he constantly made between scientifical and intellectual knowledge and the social applications and understanding of fundamental questions. His approach was always tinted with that open-mindedness and his awareness of the social aspect of his work, especially in his popular reach-out work Cosmos : A Personal Voyage and anti-nuclear activism.
Like Feynman, he wanted you to think of the answer yourself, rather than feed you the latest hypothesis as the only truth possible. Now I get to study society, and my goal more than ever is to drop that wall between the social sciences, which claim from their part to be a "different science" (more on that later), and pure science, like physics, biology and chemistry, who claim now more than ever that they can explain life and determine social behavior in a more scientific manner (in the field of neurobiology for example). Social science is different in that it has this flaw: you can't really experiment on societies. Well, you can, but that would probably make you something like a dictator or a mad scientist... Either case, not cool.
Like Sagan famously said, "We're all made of star stuff.". We are matter, and yet more than the sum of our parts, and yet still more beast than consciousness, stuck even in modernity in that pattern of duality, of polarity between the oppressor and the oppressed, the rich and the poor, the intellectual elite and the dumb masses, the physical and metaphysical.
I hope I get to ponder on these fundamental questions for a long time, and hopefully make a living out of teaching kids and people around the world to question things, and to be eternal objective critics of the world and what we make of it, especially now that we commonly know our Pale Blue Dot for what it really is: extraordinary and unique and so small in a universe so much bigger than us and beyond us even. Such vastness makes you ponder on how self-important we are in our alteration of our habitat. We didn't create the universe, God didn't create the universe, some claim it created itself in a Big Bang, I stand somewhere in the middle: sometimes I think we create the universe when we observe it, quantum-style, and sometimes I think there was somewhat of a big bang, because nothing is lost, nothing is created, everything transforms, right? So there had to be something before that singularity.
I wonder if dolphins believe in a god-type perfect dolphin-like Being, or if they have a similar desire to explain the universe they float in. I wonder if they ever looked at the stars and wondered what they were. I know, it seems perfectly random, but wouldn't it be hard for a species like humanoids to not only prove, but admit that another species on Earth has grown a universal consciousness, not only for its personal survival but for social and intellectual development purposes? We take so much pride in being "superior".
We're looking for life in space, but not really giving a rat's ass about all the life we have here on Earth, we take a distance from it through our growing detachment from nature and industrialization of basic needs. Why is there that double standard between human life and the rest of life? That moral barrier that is far more flexible when it comes to animals as food, perhaps because we have that innate, bestial need to feed that goes back to our hunter/gatherer origins, or perhaps our social experience develops in us a feeding moral code?
Cattle farm in the Amazon. (from Greenpeace)
Such are my pondering subjects these days.
Do we give too much importance to owning beautiful object, and not enough to intellectual pursuit?
Fundamentally, what is life, what is the universe?
What is consciousness and why are we capable of thinking and creating?
Are we, as the dominant force on our planet, responsible for it's preservation?
Is religion a thing of the past, now that science exists, or do we still need its moral guidance?
Such big questions, so little time to answer because I have to go read some stuff for class.. I'll leave you with a last Sagan quote.
"Science is a way of thinking much more than it is a body of knowledge."