Out of sight…

The Crab Nebula is a ring of stellar dust from a star that exploded in 1054 AD. You can look at a picture of it taken a half-century ago and it will be indistinguishable from one taken tonight. Yet science teaches that each bit of that unfortunate star is moving outward at some 80 million miles a day. So much in the natural world is like this. We look out our window and the sky seems the same as it always has been. Yet we humans are obscuring it, muddying it, causing it to trap the heat of our formerly beneficial sun, at a rate of 15 million tons of fossil fuel related carbon a day. Science teaches us that this is already having disastrous consequences, causing famine as the Sahara Desert expands, raising the level of the sea, strengthening hurricanes in their season, releasing floods and tornados out of season, and now it seems, encouraging new diseases to emerge. Yet we don’t notice such things until we see them outside our window. That’s why I appreciate the wider, longer, and clearer view that science provides.

Because our current president doesn’t believe in science, he can’t respond appropriately to the virus that decimates both our elders and our economy. The tools of science; statistical analysis, contact tracing, testing, the double-blind vetting of procedures and new medicines, etc. are opaque to him. Plagues are perennial, appearing every generation or two. He is unwilling to learn from the past or prepare for the future. When we get through this current crisis, we will still have to manage the bigger mess of climate change. How will we do that? There is a line in the prophet Hosea that goes:

…my people are destroyed from lack of knowledge…

The world where any of us can say, “out of sight, out of mind,” has passed. We are living through a transition from an industrial, carbon-fueled economy to a more technological, work-from-home world (see www.morethantheflu.com). Even when allowed, many of us will be reluctant to crowd into sports stadiums or to spend hours in packed bars playing mindless trivia games or to vote for entertainers and businessmen to lead us, like the blind lead the blind. In the future, we will put down our stupid cat videos and gather with our loved ones to learn the lessons that cannot be taught online. We will do experiments and learn chemistry with our children in our kitchens. We will talk about history as we flip through family photo albums. Then spirituality and science will meet. Compassion and public safety will return to the forefront of good governance.

Content Source: Anne Dillard "Total Eclipse" essay uses the Crab Nebula to illustrate our inability to be awed by nature (in her book: "Teaching a Stone to Talk")

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