Cosmic Perspective Promotes World Peace
As my novel The California Kids Who Saved Cosmic Civilization suggests, perhaps the best way to promote world peace is for mankind to constantly seek out higher vantage points from which to look down upon himself, so that he might discover his true relationship with the cosmos — that is, for man to strive for a truly cosmic perspective which allows him to grok* his intimate kinship with all of nature. From this perspective, the scope of nature would of course include every species of sentient being in the infinite universe.
In that it would grant every sentient species in the cosmos equal footing, such a cosmic perspective is, on the egocentric right hand, profoundly humbling. Ironically, on the thunderstruck left hand, it is as spiritually uplifting and intellectually eye-popping as the primordial big-bang itself. Naturally, to reach the lofty vantage point at which the cosmic perspective becomes apparent, each of us must strive to walk away from all those fuzzy dogmas that have been hounding mankind since our ancestors assumed the upright position. For the purposes of this retrospective exploration, then, let’s behave as though we’re all even-handedly open-minded, scientifically ambidextrous extragalactic gumshoes who avidly enjoy chewing on the history of scientific thought experiments. Okay, now let’s all raise our cosmological looking glasses and drink to the historical evolution of the cosmic perspective.
When Renaissance man, mathematician, polyglot, astronomer Nicolaus Copernicus, reluctantly chronicled his heliocentric model in the sixteenth century, it rolled the Sun to the center of the universe, where it displaced Ptolemy’s conjectured stationary Earth. Of course, as the reader probably already knows, this paradigm shift marked the beginning of a revolution in mankind’s understanding of his relationship with the cosmos. After all, old-Nick’s major gift to science not only downgraded our planet’s primacy vis-à-vis the prevailing biblical scheme, it also implied that perhaps man’s special relationship with his “creator” wasn’t quite so special as man had heretofore believed. So much so that when Galileo began to scientifically kick the Copernican sun-centered model upstairs in the early seventeenth century, a backward-looking band of biblical scholars, aka, the inquisitors, sentenced the father of modern science to house arrest for the rest of his life for heresy.
Meanwhile, Johannes Kepler’s laws of planetary motion, published in the early seventeenth century, demonstrated that planets, in fact, revolved in elliptical orbits with the Sun at one focal point. Kepler’s laws added considerable scientific weight to the Copernican heliocentric theory. Later in the century, in 1687, Isaac Newton published the Principia in which he unveiled his formulation for the law of universal gravitation and his mathematical derivation of the laws of motion which reinforced those that Kepler had discovered by analyzing astronomer Tycho Brahe’s empirical planetary observations. At very least, within the scientific community, Newtown’s monumental work laid to rest any doubt that the central character in our solar system was old Sol himself — for scientists, the heliocentric nature of our planetary system was no longer in question. For obvious reasons, the church remained firmly opposed to the new model.
Remember, however, that although the heliocentric model had bumped the now revolving Earth, poor baby, into a far-less conspicuous corner of the cosmos, biblically speaking, it had also shifted the Sun to the center of the dance floor — not only did heliocentrism hold the Sun to be at the center of our solar system, it also held that it was at the center* of the universe — a position that continued to give considerable comfort to those who wanted to believe that man occupied a special place in the cosmos. Newton himself, for example, maintained that "the common centre of gravity of the Earth, the Sun and all the Planets is to be esteem'd the *Centre of the World." Of course, we would be remiss if we didn’t also remind ourselves that in 1600, philosopher Giordano Bruno had been burned at the stake by the inquisitors after he suggested (among other things) that the stars themselves are simply distant suns with their own exoplanets.
In the intervening centuries, science has made quantum leaps toward understanding the nature of the universe and man’s place in it — mankind has walked upon the Moon; unmanned probes like the Cassini spacecraft have sent back massive amounts of data from many of the heavenly bodies within our solar system; and time-lapse photographs taken by deep-space satellites have confirmed the music of the spheres that scientists had witnessed through telescopic observations and mathematical computations. Moreover, during the twentieth century, science has put the proverbial final nail in the coffin of anthropocentrism — that is, the still popular religious belief that the human species holds a special God-given standing in the universe.
Paradoxically, unresponsive to the gravity of science, flying buttresses still fly and sword-sharp minarets still pierce the sky. Furthermore, a small segment of mankind still views them neither as a testament to man’s love for a higher being, nor a celebration of great art and architecture. Rather, a relatively small handful of deeply dogmatic “religious” leaders of all stripes see them as a last bastion of hate, where they’re free to declare their supremacy and their willingness to kill each other in defense of their own special brand of belligerent scriptural “truths.” There are even those among us who insist that the current doctrinaire battles between so-called “Islamic” extremists and self-anointed “Christian” evangelicals represent a long- prophesized clash of civilizations — one that must absolutely be fought until their bitter-end-times scriptural predictions have been fulfilled.
Have these eschatological scholars ever lifted their myopic eyes from the cloudiness of their ancient scriptures long enough to gaze upon the awesome wonder of the Milky Way Galaxy in the crystal-clear night air of a lofty mountain top? Have they ever pondered the uncanny quietude of our peaceful blue-green planet from the perspective of an orbiting space telescope? Have they ever silenced their overly zealous bellicosity long enough to inquire within? Have they ever celebrated their oneness with everything? Have they ever attempted to set aside the isms that separate us in favor of the common bonds that unite us? Truth is, the differences that separate one human being from another are minor relative to the things they share in common. As my novel fleshes out, the same can be said for the differences that separate the human species from all other sentient beings everywhere. Listen to the way our stellar astrophysicist Neil de Grasse Tyson so eloquently articulates it, “The cosmic perspective not only embraces our genetic kinship with all life on Earth but also values our chemical kinship with any yet-to-be discovered life in the universe, as well as our atomic kinship with the universe itself.” In conclusion, my fellow science fans, don’t let the angry isms of antiquity cloud your twenty-first-century eyes — get the red out now — read The California Kids Who Saved Cosmic Civilization — and experience the spiritual optimism of the cosmic perspective in action.
*In his iconic sci-fi novel, Stranger in a Strange Land, Robert Heinlein defines grok as “to understand so thoroughly that the observer becomes a part of the observed.”
READ NEIL DEGRASSE TYSON