We flat out don’t know how far space goes. Astrophysicists think they know, theorize they know, but they don’t really know. The truth is, our ignorance about farthest outer space reaches to existential — not knowing what we don’t know. Popular astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson admits, “The universe is under no obligation to make sense to you.”
For many people, ignorance about the sky above is bliss. (Which is understandable in a culture whose curiosity extends no further than Google and whose knowledge of the world is curated by Facebook.)
But, what our incomprehension of the “infinite” universe should imply, is the profoundness of humankind’s capacity for deep thought and humility. After all, just above us is this vision, so sublime yet so obvious, that it at once proves and mocks our [lack of] intelligence.
“Now imagine a world in which everyone, but especially people with power and influence, holds an expanded view of our place in the cosmos, “deGrasse Tyson wrote in his new book Astrophysics for People in a Hurry. “With this perspective, our problems would shrink — or never rise at all ….”
The 18th century astronomer James Ferguson said of the universe he studied, “… our very faculties are enlarged with the grandeur of the ideas it conveys, our minds exalted above [their] low contracted prejudices.”
The cosmic perspective should encourage us to transcend our self-centered view of life on Earth and focus on universal welfare (i.e. controlling climate, protecting natural resources, ensuring nuclear safety).
IMAGINATION IS BOUNDLESS
“How can our finite minds comprehend an infinite universe?” asked Stephen Hawking in Brief Answers to the Big Questions. “Isn’t it pretentious of us even to make the attempt?”
Infinity is as daunting a concept as anything humans can imagine. “Something that seems obvious about space is that it goes on and on and on,” Hawking wrote, adding without pretention, “We don’t expect the universe to end in a brick wall, although there’s no logical reason why it couldn’t.”
While infinite space lies beyond the scope of science, it is invigorating and inspiring that our imagination is boundless.
BUT THIS IS FLAT-OUT CRAZY
“We are normal people that have an abnormal perspective,” Darryle Marble explained to Alan Burdick, The New Yorker writer who bravely went where few have dared go before — a convention of Flat-Earthers. Burdick reported on the attendees’ mind-boggling views on “scientism,” “lightning angels,” a “rockoon” (a rocket to be launched from a balloon), religious fundamentalism and of course innumerable conspiracies. “It’s not a lie if you believe it,” Burdick invoked George Costanza for a point-of-reference.
According to the Flat-Earth community, the Earth is shaped like a Frisbee. And people, particularly in government, lie about everything. In their warped perspective — if you think it, it must be true; and if you’re told it, it must be false.
As unagreeable as the thinking of Flat-Earthers may be, we sentient beings should agree on one thing: the depth of our ignorance is as infinite as space.