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03 May 2011

Swirling Thoughts

Nothing in particular to say, but considering how momentous the past few days have been, I wanted to make sure that I at least posted something.  Everyone is talking about it, and I may as well add my two cents into the conversation.  While on a rational and humanist level, celebrating the death of any human seems to strike me as a bit odd, I must side with Clarence Darrow when he said: "I have never killed any one, but I have read some obituary notices with great satisfaction."

Osama bin Laden was about as despicable a human being as they come.  Right up there with the Pope for the amount of suffering that has been imparted on humanity as far as modern living humans go.  Now, while I am a fan of the humanist view of things, I can't help but be reminded that human beings are at their heart, jerks.  Just look at people celebrating in the streets here in the US at the death of Osama bin Laden, yet we decry the celebrations of those opposed to our ideology when they celebrated the 9/11 attacks?  Of course, people will rationalize the differences, and say we are nothing like those barbarians.  I contend we are very much like them.  I only happen to believe that our way of life and approach to human rights is much, much better than theirs.  Sort of like how Sam Harris addressed the moral landscape.  But don't think for one moment that we are somehow, as individuals, better than them, or anyone else!  That's how most of these stupid fights get started...

Next time they show a documentary on National Geographic, look for the one where the two chimpanzee tribes go to war with each otherLook really closely at their behaviour and actions.  Now tell me if you can really spot any difference between them, and us?  Not at a fundamental level.  Sure we use guns, they use sticks, but at its heart, there is no fundamental difference.

Also, I was contemplating the lack of funding for the Allen Telescope Array.  Some people contend that the whole idea of SETI is silly. As much as I love SETI, I am going to go out on a limb and predict that we won’t find any intelligent life out there using our current technology*. As even our own technology is indicating, we are becoming less and less detectable by going to compressed digital formats, and using technology like fiber optics. Even the Areciebo Observatory would have a hard time detecting our civilization from the obit of Pluto.

That said, the first Model T didn’t go 55 MPH. The wright flier never broke Mach 1. Freedom 7 never got near the moon.

So the point is? Sometimes things are worth doing for the journey, and perhaps what they teach us about ourselves in the process.  I think too often we get caught up in what is going on to remember that bit.  As humans, while we are basically jerks (because of that evolved structure of our brains) we also have the intelligence to reach beyond that.  So keep that in mind as we go about our brutal lives here on this small planet and celebrate the death of a horrible member of our species.

*That said, given what we know of chemistry, physics, biology, etc, I do predict that we will answer the question in the future, and I also predict that the answer will be that we are not alone.

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