Friday, December 11, 2009

Are We Alone? #3: State Controlled Information

"Does not the Goldfish think that he is the center of the Universe?"

The heavens have been a source of fascination and mystery since the first homo sapiens looked up at the night sky. The ancients used the stars to explain their world by the movement of the constellations. The shamans plotted the constellations of the Zodiac and believed that they could foretell future events. The wise men studied the night sky and made charts that helped them to navigate and to explore new lands and then to find their way back home. For centuries this accumulated knowledge was controlled by shamans and high priests. If the clan leader or the spiritual leaders said that the world was flat and that Earth was the center of the universe, then that was the final word and to question that position often resulted in a painful death.

The control over scientific information by the Church was so powerful and complete that the astronomer Nicolas Copernicus refused to allow the results of his work to be published until after his death in 1543. Copernicus was the first astronomer to formulate a comprehensive cosmology which placed the Sun at the center of the universe instead of the Earth. Despite the urging of his close friends and associates, he resisted openly publishing his views, not wishing to expose himself to the risk of scorn by his peers and sanction by the church. His published works paved the way for Galileo, considered by most to be "the Father of Modern Science." During the Roman Inquisition Galileo's work was condemned by the Catholic Church as "false and contrary to Scripture" and he was warned to abandon his support for it. In 1632 Galileo was tried by the Inquisition and found "vehemently suspect of heresy," and forced to recant. He was forced to spent the rest of his life under house arrest.

Before brave new concepts of our world and our place in the universe can be accepted, a whole lot of evolution must take place. (I really have a difficult time accepting people who refuse to evolve, but that is a subject for another blog.) We have had to go from primitive awe of the night sky and "knowing beyond any doubt" that the stars revolved around earth to understanding that our world revolved around the sun.

Our combined general knowledge is said to double every five years. Computer science is believed to double every 18 months and before the warranty runs out your new device will be obsolete. Countries that once were thought to be "backward" are becoming leaders in increasing the reservoir of human knowledge. China and India are committing a larger percentage of their new found wealth to research and development. Scientists and Astronomers around the world are collaborating and the mass of information is increasing exponentially. Society can no longer ignore the elephant in the corner of the room.

Now, scientists and society are again struggling with a paradigm shift. The respected National Geographic magazine is asking us to consider, not the possibility, but the probability that we are not alone in the Grand Universe.

In the past, if the Emperor or the Pope didn't like the message they killed the messenger. Will our modern emperors, shamans and wise men accept the answers?

Hemlock, anyone?

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