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Special Report 2004

Source: NASA

Astronomers reported this fall (2003) (25th General Assembly of the International Astronomical Union in Sydney, Australia) that the world's most powerful telescopes can view approximately 70 sextillion -- that's 7 followed by 22 zeros -- stars in the known Universe. The Los Angeles Times suggests there are more stars in the sky (that we can see) than there are grains of sand in every beach and desert on Earth.

In this immensity, what are we?

As our own solar system (planets, moons and Mother Star) hurtles through space, we now have (with telescopes) the capacity to look back over our shoulders at where we have been and those around us, and see a mind boggling story unfold and unfolding.

(People don't like having their minds boggled: "The Earth is round, I say!" "You lie, Sir!")

70 sextillion stars -- in view -- whose origins go back to the same single point in time, now called "The Big Bang". The laws of Physics work throughout the known universe. Reason (what little we enjoy of it) dictates that some of these star clusters and sibling solar systems must be like our own and carry life. Statistically, they say it's inevitable. We're part of a larger whole. Are we an experiment? Hurtling and evolving toward -- what?

We have "life" on Earth and have evolved "intelligence" -- that very ability that lets us look back now over our shoulders at our solar history and out to the farthest edges of our known universe.

What is life? What is it for? What is this curious evolutionary "consciousness"? Will it continue only in us? Are Earth's human life forms the only sparks that matter in the universe, or here??

Consider, would "intelligent" life forms act like giant, multiplying bacteria on the face of our planet if they were "advanced"? Or, would they gather their dominant might for "self interest rightly understood" and protect Earth's other living creations (and ourselves) from ourselves in the interdependent Web of Life?

If humans have free will, is man's will divine? As Jonathan Swift once famously wrote in Gulliver's Travels, quoting the King of the Land of Bobdingnag : "By what I have gathered from your own relation. I cannot but conclude the bulk of your natives [Gulliver's people] to be the most pernicious race of little odious vermin that nature ever suffered to crawl upon the surface of the earth."

Are we chiggers on the shinbone of God?

Can we muster the intelligence and will to sustain the Web of Life on Earth -- or destroy it as we rip up the planet and each other? Is that the divine survival and winnowing test of life among the planets of the solar systems among sextillion+stars?

As dominant life forms, we humans are what we ourselves must term a "miracle" -- a recent and precarious one, borne on the back and shoulders of our planet's other life. Will we fly?

Associated Press


Perhaps, if we protect the others, as ourselves.

Report Continued



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