The tone of Carl Sagan’s Cosmos echoed that of many smart young college boys, of which I was once one. Within this existential world view, the subject (my young self) views himself as cleansed of all ancient superstition and is thus able to see things clearly. Standing as it were on a high and cold mountain peak where the air is thin and the vault of the heavens crisply seen, with a full stomach, nestled in a warm down jacket and with a girlfriend standing not too far away, me and Carl Sagan take on Truth where Plato, Aristotle, St. Augustine, Aquinas, Descartes, Kant, and Woody Allen have all failed. We have the courage to face meaninglessness square on without flinching. We understand ourselves to be pitifully insignificant and yet, wonder of wonders, we are not crushed by this devastating knowledge because…well, shoot, our stomachs are full, that down jacket helps, and don’t forget the girlfriend. In short our views are philosophically unsound, self-referentially incoherent, and worthless as a screenplay. No, this view of the universe can only suit a documentary TV show hosted by an expert so pompous that Napoleon crowning himself emperor comes across as an amateur in the hubris race.
It’s a view that ignores mind. How do we come up with this stuff in the first place? How can we be pondering things that our evolved peers—pigs, monkeys, and such—so successfully ignore? How can we understand “meaning” itself if all is meaningless? Oh, by the way, just because the universe is huge, does it necessarily follow that we are insignificant? Does a syllogism to that effect repose somewhere in the NASA archives?
For the way in which cosmology has now become fantasy, not fact, see The Science Fictions series at your fingertips (cosmology).
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