Copernicus's "Revolution" was not unlike Stalin's in impact
|peter ward's RARE EARTH|
Pause a moment, for a snicker of scorn at our poor dumb ancestors.
When Copernicus told us that the Earth was but one of a group of planets circling the Sun, a certain type of human took away a very particular - one might even say, peculiar - lesson.
Let us call them Skygods and imagine them to look a lot like Pierre-Simon LaPlace or Rene Descartes.
They saw this Earth, as nothing special, just one of a half dozen equally inhabitable homes for Mankind.
Use one up, toss it aside and move on to another.
The Pre Copernicus view, by contrast saw the Earth as the only place for their form of Life, in the Universe.
Let us call them Earthlings and cite any number of founding myths from many cultures around the world, for a more detailed account on how early humanity viewed the Earth in relation to the stars.
Earth was their nest, their one and only nest.
How far they'd go in fouling that nest was still up in the air - but how far would a bird go, or any lifeform go, in fouling up their one and only nest ?
So two views : a powerful new Modern scientific view and an older, fading, primitive, powerless mythical view.
Cut to 1965 : Annus Horribilus for Copernicus and Modernity.
The first pictures and scientific measurements were coming back from Mars and Venus and they were not good.
If there was a Christian Hell, it came in two flavours: Hot for Venus and Cold for Mars.
The other planets ,closer or further from the Sun, were even worse.
Apparently The White Man had Spoken with a Forked Tongue : this was not just Earth 1.0 in a long lineup of planets to exploit and toss aside ----- it was in fact Earth one point everything.
All Alone - in a hostile Diracian Sea
Our only lifeboat, in a very big and very hostile Diracian Sea --- and it was starting to leak badly.
Call this new view of our fate counter-culture, hippie-dippie, green, environmentalist, post-modernist, global commensalist, call it what you will ---- but above all call it POST Copernicus.
Very,very,very,very Post Copernicus.
Yes Copernicus & his latterday disciples (shout out to SETI, Drake & Sagan !) : we are but one planet among trillions in the Universe.
But so far, we are:
(A) the only known one attractive enough to ensure life survives on it.
(B) the only one known to permit intelligent life to flourish on it.
(C) if there are any equally or more attractive planets elsewhere in the Universe, they are so far away as to be beyond our fiscal and technological capability to successfully colonize.
The new Epoch of Rare Earth ?
A RARE Earth indeed : will two centuries from now, will we look back upon Peter Ward and Donald Brownlee the same way as some still look upon Copernicus : as people who ushered in a major new epoch in Human History ?